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Hollywood is up in arms over the possibility that the governor of Georgia might sign a religious freedom law it considers anti-gay, and now it is also setting its sights on North Carolina, which has already enacted House Bill 2.
On Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina signed the legislation, designed to prevent cities, towns and counties from passing anti-discrimination rules beyond certain standards set by the state.
It also requires that bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools and colleges and in government buildings be designated for use only by people based on their biological sex.
Critics, including the MPAA, say the law demeans transgender individuals and the LGBT community. Rob Reiner blasted state Republicans and swore he wouldn’t film there until the recently enacted law is repealed.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to one of the main forces behind the new law, North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
How did this law come to pass?
The city of Charlotte passed an ordinance allowing transgender people to go into the bathroom of their choice. What it did in reality, though, was open up men’s and women’s bathrooms to anybody for any reason, using the excuse that they feel one gender on one day and a different gender another day. It really created a loophole for men to go into women’s bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities, even in schools. Anyone with a nefarious purpose could go in and it would be legal to do so. It stretched way beyond Charlotte’s legal authority, so we had a special session to deal with this after an outcry of tens of thousands of people across the state telling us to keep our women safe.
Who called the special session?
There’s two ways to do it. The governor can call it, but he didn’t. So we got three-fifths of the House and Senate to sign off on it, then the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate called the session, and as the lieutenant governor, I am the president of the Senate.
Does the bill go beyond bathrooms?
It regulates public accommodations across the state so that every business in every different municipality doesn’t have to hire a lawyer to figure out the law. Then it established a uniform anti-discrimination policy that is stronger than federal law, and it says cities and towns couldn’t set their own minimum wage. So basically it was about uniform business codes, because in this Charlotte ordinance there was all sorts of stuff twisted in there about employment and contract law that we had to deal with.
What part of the bill is called anti-gay?
I don’t know because I don’t think critics have even read the bill. What you see on Twitter is that it’s discriminatory, but it’s actually anti-discriminatory. I guess the LGBT community thinks the law discriminates against them because it says you have to use the bathroom of your birth-certificate sex. But there’s also a provision that if you are fully transgender and have changed your birth certificate you can use that bathroom, and we also let businesses make these decisions for themselves. What we said is that a city or county cannot tell a business that they have to do it one way or the other.
So the objection to this bill is about bathrooms and there’s nothing about bakers, caterers, clergy performing same-sex marriages, religious freedom or anything along those lines?
Correct. I know the critics don’t even know why we had to come back into session to deal with this, and we had overwhelming support across the state for this. I’ve never seen anything like it. Again, if you change your gender on your birth certificate, that’s the facility you can use.
Rob Reiner says you and the governor and the rest of the Republicans in the state are full of “hate, bigotry and discrimination” and he won’t film there until the law is repealed.
This Republican versus Democrat stuff is ridiculous. In fact, half the Democrats in the House voted in favor of the bill. In the Senate it was unanimous because the Democrats walked out. My guess is half would have voted in favor of it, so that’s why they walked out. It’s a whole lot of hullabaloo from the LGBT community and the Human Rights Campaign about something they either haven’t read or have chosen to blow up into an election-year issue. All the bill did was protect women and children in bathrooms.
Does it bother you if Rob Reiner doesn’t film there?
It bothers me that he hasn’t seen the light about this issue and that he doesn’t know that the people of North Carolina aren’t discriminating against anybody. The South gets a bad rap about a lot of things, but the South is a great place to live. There’s Southern hospitality here and we take care of one another. So it does bother me that he’s thinking out of ignorance. He’s listening to a few people who are lying to him.
The HRC says your bill “was fast-tracked to enshrine discrimination into law in North Carolina.” Was it fast-tracked?
A special session lasts a day or two. The bill is already crafted, you have committee meetings and then you vote. There was a whole lot of time spent on this bill with all kinds of legal mumbo jumbo to make sure we didn’t overstep boundaries. This was all done over many days. I guess the HRC is trying to tell people we were putting one over on them, but that wasn’t the case at all.
The NBA seems like it’s threatening to pull the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte over the law.
Legally letting sexual predators into a girl’s bathroom — this is what the NBA thinks is a good idea? I guarantee you the NBA doesn’t know anything about this. They never do. They get their diversity representatives to tweet out something so they can play political correctness to the masses. But if the Charlotte Hornets want to have bathrooms in their arena for everybody to share, they can do that. The bill gives businesses freedom to do whatever they want. We just told cities that schools have to have bathrooms assigned to boys and girls. The government has to abide by that, but the NBA and Hollywood productions and American Airlines and any other business can do what they want.
If all of Hollywood refuses to film in North Carolina, will you change the law?
Absolutely not. We’ve never made a law based on what Hollywood wants. That would certainly be the wrong way for us to do policy. We base it on what’s right and what’s wrong. Allowing sexual predators and pedophiles into girl’s bathrooms with my wife and daughter would not be a good thing. If Hollywood doesn’t like that, I’m sorry. But the reality is, Hollywood hasn’t read the bill.
People who read what you just said may accuse you of saying the LGBT community is full of sexual predators and pedophiles.
That is what the activists like to argue, but, no, I don’t know of anyone on our side who has ever said that. What we’re saying is that a loophole Charlotte created would allow it to happen. That’s the shame of it. Charlotte lawmakers knew it. They were told by their lawyers, and they passed it anyway.
Can the state afford to fight this war against Hollywood, professional sports, Apple, Google, American Airlines and other big businesses?
That’s a fantasy. North Carolina is a great state for business and everybody knows it. We created about 270,000 new jobs since our administration has been in place. We moved from 40th in business-tax climate to 15th in one year. Businesses will continue to move here, and the businesses that are complaining right now will continue to do business in this great state.
Have the local LGBT activists weighed in?
Of course. I put them with the HRC and other folks who are clamoring for equality, knowing that it’s not really what they want. They’re looking for their demands to be met and they don’t care about the others in the state who don’t agree with them.
[Editor’s note: THR asked Rob Reiner to respond to Forest’s assertion that he does not understand the law that he objects to and the filmmaker responded with the following statement: “This law is so discriminatory that Dow Chemical and I are on the same side. That ought to tell you something about how unjust it is.”]