The Washington, D.C.-based American College Personnel Association has cancelled an event scheduled for June in Charlotte, N.C., due to what executive director Cynthia H. Love cited as "the current social and political climate in North Carolina" over the recent passage of HB2, a bill that prohibits cities in the state from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people. The move adds to a growing list of cancellations due to the measure, signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 23.
According to the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, the city's destination marketing organization, Charlotte alone has lost 13 conventions - four by outright cancellation and another nine in "lost possibilities" - due to the controversial law. In addition, Bruce Springsteen cancelled a show in Greensboro that was to take place Sunday, April 10, in protest.
What follows is the full text of an open letter written by ACPA director Love to explain her organization's decision to not meet in Charlotte:
April 1, 2016
Cynthia H. Love, Ed.D.
One Dupont Circle NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
Attention: Colin Campbell, State Politics & Government Reporter, Raleigh News & Observer
I want to update you regarding a situation involving our national association, ACPA-College Student Educators and a contract for our Institute on Assessment in Charlotte scheduled for June 2016.
The current social and political climate in North Carolina cannot provide a hospitable environment for our members who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), and our members who do not identify as LGBT do not wish to invest their time and money in places that are intolerant of their colleagues.
Mr. Vineet Nayyar, senior vice president of GF Management, owner of the Holiday Inn Center in Charlotte, has graciously agreed to cancel, without penalty, our contract with Holiday Inn Center in Charlotte. He has also agreed to transfer our Institute to one of GF's properties in another state, honoring the same rate for which we contracted a year ago.
Since HB2 passed within three months of our conference, if we cancelled, the penalty would have been over 75 percent of the actual booking. This posed a significant financial loss for our association. Nevertheless, the ACPA executive team was willing to bear that burden to ensure that all of our members attending our event in June 2016 felt safe, welcomed and included.
Our decision does not reflect in any way on the good people in Charlotte and the rest of the state who oppose this legislation. ACPA has members who live and work on North Carolina campuses and we will continue to advocate for repeal of HB2. The new law clearly strikes down protections that existed for employees of state agencies, universities, and local government across the state and opens the door to broad-based discrimination.
In addition, while Gov. McCrory argues that HB2 is "not about demonizing one group of people," we believe that our transgender-identified members and their friends, families and colleagues in North Carolina have, in fact, been demonized by the actions of the legislature and the governor. This type of discriminating public policy increases vulnerability to hate crimes and violence for all LGBT persons and, most particularly, those who identify as transgender.
We want to thank Mr. Vineet Nayyar and the ownership of GF Management for understanding our deep concerns regarding the current climate for our attendees. Mr. Nayyar gave us his complete assurance of our safety and welcome in their facilities and, in the same moment, expressed his understanding of the more complex challenge of bringing our members to a state that is simply not welcoming, including or habitable for us under the current circumstances.
"North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, the state's top law enforcement official, has concluded House Bill 2 is unconstitutional and harms North Carolinians without justification." Cooper has indicated that he will not defend HB2's constitutionality. We commend his decision.
As soon as HB2 is repealed, ACPA will be back in North Carolina.
Thank you very much.
Cynthia H. Love, Ed.D.