On March 23, North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory signed into effect House Bill 2, Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which has many who regularly attend and exhibit at the High Point Market unhappy.
The North Carolina House of Representatives called a special session and unanimously passed House Bill 2 in just one work day. At its core, House Bill 2 is a statewide anti-discrimination law, which all cities must match, that excludes sexual orientation and gender identity. It was passed in response to an ordinance in Charlotte banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
This ordinance would’ve allowed transgender individuals to use public bathrooms and locker rooms of the sex they identify with, as opposed to their biological sex. Lawmakers who supported House Bill 2 say this was the only part of the ordinance they wanted to overturn, citing safety issues. However, House Bill 2 is much broader than this.
Industry members are speaking out to condemn the bill, many taking to social media to question whether to attend the spring High Point Market because of its passing.
High Point Market Authority’s Executive Committee issued a statement taking an anti-discriminatory stance and criticized House Bill 2, citing the “economic damage” it will likely cause.
“Based on the reaction in just the last few days, hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April,” the statement said.
High Point Market Authority President Tom Conley echoed this statement to Residential Lighting, saying that the spring market is vital to the economy and our industry.
Conley also added that “High Point Market welcomes every qualified person in the home furnishings industry to attend our trade show twice a year, regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Likewise, International Market Centers (IMC) CEO Bob Maricich told Residential Lighting that IMC, who owns a significant amount of real estate at the High Point Market, denounces discrimination in any form.
“At IMC, a guiding principle of our commitment to excellence is to treat all people with dignity and to act with integrity. Inclusiveness is a core value of our organization. In order to build relationships and exceed expectations internally and with our customers, we continue to work together to better understand one another. We believe through kindness and fundamental fairness that we cannot only build an exceptional company but we can positively influence our industry and community.”
Industry members and regular High Point Market attendees are suggesting protests and letters to the governor; others are saying they plan to boycott entirely.
Interior designer Kenneth Ludwig, who is a market regular, says he’s just frustrated.
“While I would cancel my trip, I want to support the lines, vendors and design friends who don't believe in this hate. However, I think a large statement needs to come from the market that as major revenue generators for the area, as well as the state, that we won’t stand for this!”
Interior designer Jeffrey Johnson says he's concerned for everyone who’s involved in High Point.
“I don’t want to go backwards and that’s what I feel like we’re doing. I want people to understand the LGBT community. High Point is not a large city, and we have to take public transportation and things like that. If someone didn’t agree with us, it could put us in a dangerous situation.”
Johnson urges people who are unhappy with the legislation and considering a boycott of spring High Point Market to contact their representatives and senators instead to try and evoke some change.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, a North Carolina-based manufacturer, agrees, and says that instead of a boycott, people should go to market and support the companies that support equality in the workplace. The company issued a press release stating that it could not be more disappointed in this legislation.
“Passing this bill hurts business in many ways, including hiring/recruiting and maintaining a quality workforce, as it makes potential employees less likely to want to move to the state or continue to live in a state that encourages discrimination. There is a serious threat of backlash against companies based in North Carolina, including the most important economic trade show in the state.”
Currey & Co. also issued a statement in opposition of House Bill 2, saying the legislation is contrary to its core values.
"Currey & Co. has been conducting business in North Carolina for many years and knows that the spirit of this law is not reflective of the wonderful people with which we have had the pleasure of working. We are looking forward to this year’s High Point Market, and as always, we endeavor to create a warm, inviting environment in our showroom for all to enjoy."
The impact and effect of this bill is far from over. On March 28, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit calling House Bill 2 unconstitutional and is seeking to prevent its enforcement.