Update: North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s office sent a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution late Tuesday with its reaction to Atlanta City Council’s resolution, asking the NBA to consider moving its all-star weekend to Atlanta: “Thankfully, no college team from Georgia made the Final Four again this year. Otherwise, the Atlanta City Council would have to boycott the city of Houston, where voters overwhelmingly rejected a bathroom ordinance that was nearly identical to the one rejected by (the) state of North Carolina.”
Original Story: One day after Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill, Atlanta city council members took a shot at a buzzer-beater on Tuesday that would bring next year’s NBA All-Star Game to Atlanta.
The 2017 NBA All-Star weekend is scheduled for Feb. 17-19 in Charlotte, N.C., which made headlines last week when North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill voiding Charlotte’s anti-discrimination law protecting gay and transgender people.
Actually, the North Carolina law establishes statewide protections against discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin and biological sex — but not sexual orientation or gender identity. And the state law supersedes any local ordinance, meaning no city in the state can pass such a law.
That, combined with Deal’s veto, left Councilman Andre Dickens an open jump shot: “As the home to the civil and human rights movement, our diverse set of people and businesses (would) welcome this global event with open arms.”
Dickens, along with Council President Ceasar Mitchell and Councilman Alex Wan, introduced the resolution Tuesday requesting that the National Basketball Association relocate the all-star game, and the weekend of festivities, to Atlanta.
Bloomberg reported that the 2015 all-star weekend in New York generated $195 million in economic activity.
The NBA released a statement last week saying the league was troubled by the law: “We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”
Wan said the resolution grew organically out of conversations about the North Carolina law.
“We were just talking about the craziness of what was happening in North Carolina contrasted with what happened in Georgia, with very different outcomes but the same kind of stakes,” Wan said. “We’ve been talking about consequences, certainly there should be consequences. And might there also be incentive … if we’re able to demonstrably show there are benefits to having anti-discrimination laws.”
Deal was under heavy pressure to veto the legislation, which included condemnation from all three Atlanta professional sports teams and from the NFL, which said the law could cost the city in its bid for a Super Bowl.
Known as the “religious liberty” bill because it allows non-profit faith-based groups with “deeply held religious beliefs” to opt out of marrying, employing and providing services to gay people, the Georgia law said no pastor could be forced to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony, and that no individual can be forced to attend one.
It would have protected faith-based organizations — including churches, schools and association — from having to rent or allow its facilities to be used for an event it finds “objectionable,” and they could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Mitchell praised Deal’s veto as “a strong statement, which I believe is reflective of his understanding of the … economic opportunity that was at risk.”
“We just wanted to say: `If you guys are going to take a look at other places, consider us,’” Mitchell said. “We wanted to assure the NBA that Atlanta is open for business, and open to (all) people.”
Charlotte already had an ordinance on the books that protected residents from discrimination based on race, age, religion and gender. But City Council voted Feb. 22 to expand those protections and cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The most controversial element was allowing trans-gender people to use the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity.
In response, the North Carolina legislature met in special session, passed the law and had it signed by the governor — all in less than a day.
The Charlotte Observer reported March 23: “In North Carolina today, there are no legal protections for gays and lesbians. That means a private business in Charlotte or anywhere else in the state can refuse to serve someone who is gay, and a bakery could refuse to make a cake for a wedding of a gay couple.”
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