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Netflix Smacks Down Bathroom Bigots, Threatens to Take $60M Project Elsewhere


Netflix is laying down an ultimatum for North Carolina: either it cuts out the homophobic bathroom nonsense, or it loses $60 million in potential business. That’s right. Netflix is about to start shooting OBX, a coming-of-age series set in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, but the show’s creator, Jonas Pate (a North Carolina native and twin brother of Surface producer Josh Pate) just announced that production is likely to move to South Carolina unless remnants of HB 2 are eradicated.

HB 2 was North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which got lots of well-deserved bad press for its attempt to bar transgender people from using restrooms that coincided with their gender identities and restricted municipalities from enacting anti-discrimination laws. The 2016 bill was bigoted in intent, offensive in practice, and utterly impractical to enforce – which is why it was replaced after a year with HB 142.

HB 142 repealed the part of HB 2 that forced transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with their birth certificate genders in government buildings, public schools, and state colleges – which was certainly a good thing. But for those who understand that this bathroom business is meaningful on a larger scale, it didn’t go nearly far enough. HB 142 left restroom access in the hands of the state legislature instead of cities and counties – which means that state lawmakers could, at any time, simply decide to pass another bigoted bathroom law.

HB 142 also does something else that’s pretty sinister: it prohibits municipalities from even enacting non-discrimination ordinances if those ordinances would protect groups “not included in state law” (read, LGBTQ people), until the year 2020. I guess this is better than what HB 2 had originally done, which was to prevent those anti-discrimination ordinances permanently. But come on. I guess the North Carolina legislature hasn’t read up on its Constitutional history, but the Supreme Court has been pretty clear that excluding groups of people from legal protection is pretty much the antithesis of what the Equal Protection Clause is about.

HB 142’s attempt to limit legal remedies for LGBTQ discrimination is what prompted Pate to focus on South Carolina as a production location for the show. Pate explained:

This tiny law is costing this town [Wilmington] 70 good, clean, pension-paying jobs and also sending a message to those people who can bring these jobs and more that North Carolina still doesn’t get it.

Pate appears to remain open-minded and hopeful, though. He has explained that because North Carolina legislators could push to repeal the anti-discrimination prohibition, he would hold out hope for using the state as a production locale.

“We have a tiny window where this could be pulled out of the fire,” Pate said. “If I get any sense that there is any effort to move the sunset date up, I think I could convince Netflix to change course.”

As lawmakers scramble to salvage multimillion-dollar business opportunities for their constituents, they’ll likely be re-thinking their former stance on this bathroom issue. Two years ago, when HB 2 first came on the scene, its proponents insisted that reports of targeted boycotts were inaccurate. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, the Democrat who inherited the mess of HB 2 from his ousted predecessor, Pat McCrory, knew all too well that the fallout was real. “We have to get it off our books,” Cooper told The Charlotte Observer at the time.

While not all right-leaning voters find themselves in lock-step with the bathroom brigade, transgender bathroom use has become a major conservative talking point in the last few years. Speaking of conservative principles, Netflix’ decision to move $60 million elsewhere is what’s known as “letting market forces prevail.”

[Image via Mark Makela/Getty Images]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos