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By Will Doran April 13, 2016

N.C. Rep. Stam says state's controversial new law, HB2, isn't all that rare

Rep. Paul "Skip" Stam, one of North Carolina’s most powerful Republican legislators, gave an interview Monday addressing the jobs and tourism dollars that North Carolina has lost in the wake of the new state law known as House Bill 2, or HB2.

PayPal pulled a planned 400-job expansion in Charlotte, and Wake County tourism officials said the law had already cost the county $732,000 with another $24 million in question due to businesses and conventions expressing concern.

Stam said the backlash against North Carolina is hard to understand because most states have similar laws. The next day, Deutsche Bank announced it was freezing plans to bring 250 jobs to Cary.

"If they’re not going to go here, there are 31 other states and 10,000 other cities that have the same type of policies that we just passed," Stam said, as The News & Observer quoted him on Monday.

Is that right?

Our first challenge was figuring out exactly what Stam meant when he said "policies that we just passed," because HB2 covers a lot of ground. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s in the bill:

  • Transgender people may not use the bathroom that matches their gender identity in schools or other public buildings – only the gender that’s on their birth certificates. Private businesses may set their own bathroom rules.

  • Cities and counties may not enact local policies concerning discrimination or minimum wages that apply to private businesses. Whether they can enact stronger discrimination policies for their own employees is still unclear, as we explored in another fact check.

  • The anti-discrimination policy for employment does not include sexual orientation or gender identity, which means businesses may discriminate against gay or transgender employees.

  • The anti-discrimination policy for service in public accommodations also does not include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • People fired for any discriminatory reason – including race, religion, disability and biological sex – no longer may file a lawsuit in state courts.

  • People denied service for any discriminatory reason – including race, religion, disability and biological sex – no longer may sue in state courts.

Stam can’t be totally correct when he says the law is the same as in 31 other states because some of these new policies are rare. Only North Carolina and Mississippi, for instance, do not allow discrimination claims to be filed in state court.

And North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that have considered so-called bathroom bills to dictate that people can use only the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificates.

And it’s that issue, in which North Carolina stands alone for now, that has received the most attention nationally.

A similar proposal was shot down in South Dakota, but several other states are considering bathroom bills. Those include Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality, which tracks such bills nationwide.

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We double-checked all those state’s bills and found they’re still active; some states are considering multiple bills on the topic.

But we digress. Even if Stam isn’t right on some parts of the bill, is he right on any of it?

31 states, 10,000 cities

An aide told us Stam was referring only to the lack of discrimination protections for both sexual orientation and gender identity.

The District of Columbia and another 20 states do offer such protections; therefore 30 states do not give discrimination protections for both categories.

Stam said "31 other states," and really it’s 29 others, but that difference is small. Part of the problem is that Stam was citing an outdated map from the pro-HB2 group Keep NC Safe. The map lists New York as only protecting sexual orientation, but the state added gender identity to its list of protections in January.

As of now, two states protect sexual orientation but not gender identity (New Hampshire and Wisconsin), and 28 states protect neither category. Most of those are in the South and Midwest.

Stam is right that about 10,000 cities also don't give discrimination protections to gay or lesbian people.

An aide told us it was actually just a conservative guess Stam made. We counted and found the guess was on target – it’s safe to say the 30 states in question contain more than 10,000 incorporated places. Because of state-by-state discrepancies in defining places, we counted all incorporated places instead of just cities.

Some states divide places into townships, towns, boroughs, villages or cities. Other states call everything a city, even if that city has only four residents — like Ruso, N.D.

Some states – looking at you, Michigan – have wildly confusing systems of local governments with overlapping boundaries and differing powers that make it difficult to determine an accurate count.

But while we couldn’t find an exact number, we were able to confirm more than 10,000 incorporated places in those states Stam referred to. North Carolina alone has 552.

It's worth noting that more than 200 places or counties nationwide have passed anti-discrimination laws that are stricter than their state laws. Still, Stam’s "10,000 cities" estimate remains accurate.

Our ruling

Stam said there are dozens of states and thousands of cities that businesses should also avoid if they truly oppose North Carolina’s new law.

That’s overly broad, since the law does many different things. In some cases, North Carolina is one of two states or the only state with policies that HB2 brought into law.

But Stam clarified that he was talking specifically about discrimination protections for gay and transgender people. On that, his claim of "31 other states and 10,000 other cities" is basically true.

Technically there are 29 other states, not 31. That doesn’t really detract from the point he was trying to make – but the fact that he glossed over other parts of the bill does.

We rate this claim Half True.

Our Sources

The News & Observer, April 11, 2016, "Raleigh visitors bureau says HB2 is affecting Wake economy"

The News & Observer, April 12, 2016,  "Economic impact of HB2 mushrooms in the Triangle"

Full text of new N.C. law, HB2

List of bills being watched by the National Center for Transgender Equality

Proposed bathroom bill in Indiana

Proposed bathroom bill in Kansas

Proposed bathroom bill in Massachusetts

Proposed bathroom bill in Missouri

Proposed bathroom bill in South Carolina

Proposed bathroom bill in Tennessee

States with no gay or transgender protection, Keep NC Safe map (outdated)

States with no gay or transgender protection, Human Rights Commission map (current)

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Will Doran

N.C. Rep. Stam says state's controversial new law, HB2, isn't all that rare

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