Whitney Tilson and I don’t usually exchange emails. He is one of those hedge fund managers whom I often complain about; he is a big supporter of KIPP, TFA, and charters, and he frequently lambastes me (I never speak ill of him). But Whitney reaches out once in a while to tell me we have found common ground. For example, I complimented him when he publicly acknowledged that the online charter chain K12 does not offer good education. I liked that.
Recently, Whitney has been very outspoken about the anti-gay, anti-transgender legislation passed recently in North Carolina, Georgia (vetoed by Governor Deal after loud protests by corporations), and most recently, Mississippi, which just passed a law saying it was okay to refuse service to people who are gay or transgender.
Whitney contacted me to express his outrage about North Carolina’s HB2, which prevents localities from passing legislation to protect the rights of transgender people. He sent correspondence he had with a North Carolina legislator, stating that he [[Whitney] has a cousin who is a transgender man and another cousin who is married to a transgender woman. How could a state single them out for discriminatory treatment? How could the state label them second-class citizens?
His letter was posted in full at Huffington Post. I excerpted below.
Whitney points out in the posts below that the economic backlash against North Carolina has begun. PayPal canceled a major expansion that would have created 400 new jobs. The entertainment industry is backing away. Other major corporations are reconsidering their presence in the state. They don’t want to lose valued employees because of discriminatory laws.
I will say this for Whitney: when he gets engaged in a battle, he is relentless. I wish he were on our side.
This was the communique that started our current exchanges:
“When I read about the outrageous law that the Republican legislature and governor in North Carolina recently passed that bars transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity and prohibits cities from passing antidiscrimination ordinances that protect gay and transgender people (see the NYT editorial and two articles about it, below), I remembered that an old acquaintance of mine, who served with me for many years on the board of a charity that provides scholarships to dozens of promising, impoverished Samburu students in Kenya, had asked for my support for his campaign to become a member of the NC legislature. Even though I don’t normally support Republicans, I thought he was a very intelligent and good-hearted person, so I was happy to write him a $500 check.
“I haven’t been on that board for ~5 years so haven’t had any contact with him – I couldn’t even remember if he’d won his race much less if he was still serving. But in the off chance he was, I forwarded him one of the articles below with the comment, “Please tell me that you’re not part of this total idiocy…”
“Much to my surprise (and disappointment), he was! Below is the email reply he sent me, followed by the email I just sent back to him. Enjoy – and please feel free to forward widely!”
“Yes, I did vote for this and would say there are a number of points not being reported.
“Charlotte clearly overstepped their legal authority in that their ordinance went beyond their government facilities and required churches, charities and any business in the state wanting to do business with Charlotte to follow the ordinance.
“There is nothing in this bill that added to or diminished discrimination statutes previously in place in NC.
“The bathroom, locker room provisions cover only public and government facilities. Essentially, there are men’s and women’s facilities as traditionally defined and a requirement for unisex or special accommodations as needed.
“Numerous lawyers initially felt this could have Title 9 and other federal education funds issues. However, upon further examination, they thought not. This included the UNC System.
“This bill does not impact private businesses. Most large businesses were already following these guidelines.
“There is nothing to prevent a municipality from approaching the legislature about changing their minimum wage. It just needs to be approved at the state level.
“I hate having to deal with this type legislation, but Charlotte went too far. Thank you for writing, inquiring or commenting any time.
“Here’s the reply I just sent him:
“I’m really disappointed to hear that you voted for this law, don’t find your rationale for it all persuasive, and am really struggling to reconcile the person I know – the highly intelligent, rational man with a heart of gold – with someone who could support a law that is so: 1) cravenly political; and 2) motivated by hatred and an attempt to further stigmatize an already-oppressed tiny minority. If it were otherwise, why was this bill rushed through in the proverbial (if not literal) dead of night? What century are you and your colleagues living in???
“I feel strongly about this in part because I have two cousins, one of whom is a transgender man and another who is married to a transgender woman. I find it offensive that you and your colleagues passed a law that stigmatizes them – and for what? If you were really concerned about protecting children from a certain group of people known for having a high propensity to be pedophiles, why didn’t you pass a bill banning Catholic priests from your restrooms?
“The absurdity of the law you and your colleagues just passed is further underscored by this photo posted by a transgender man (the NYT editorial below links to his Twitter page here: https://twitter.com/JayShef/status/712845760287494144):
Whitney sent this missive today:
“1) Good for PayPal!
“PayPal announced Tuesday morning that’s it has abandoned its plans for a massive global operations center, which would have brought 400 new jobs to Charlotte, North Carolina. The company was unequivocal that the decision was made because of the state’s passage of HB2, a sweeping law that blocks cities from enacting LGBT nondiscrimination protections and mandates that transgender people use the wrong bathrooms for their gender identities.
“CEO Dan Schulman explained in a statement that “the new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”
“Schulman asserted that the decision to not proceed with the Charlotte center “is a clear and unambigous one” that reflects the company’s “deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect.” Because PayPal’s employees would not have equal rights under North Carolina law, employing them there is “simply untenable.”
“The move by PayPal is the latest in an ever-growing backlash against the state for rushing through the discriminatory law — lawmakers passed it in a single calendar day as retribution for Charlotte passing LGBT nondiscrimination protections.
“2) From a friend:
“You may also be interested to know that the entrepreneurial community in NC is mobilizing to express our frustration with HB2 and its impact on our community and the health of our startup business climate. We have launched a website where startups across NC can share a comment: http://www.startups-against-hb2.com. We have also launched a formal petition that we are trying to get 100+ startups to sign on to by this Friday, April 8th so we can bring this to the NC government and share the voice of the startup community.
“3) When craven politicians pass laws like HB2, it’s an invitation to horrors like this:
“In his confession, Mr. Dixon said he met the transgender woman, Islan Nettles, on the street in Harlem just after midnight on Aug. 17, 2013. Under questioning, he told the police he started flirting with Ms. Nettles, unaware she was transgender, and became enraged when one of his friends starting mocking him.
“Mr. Dixon admitted that he punched Ms. Nettles in the face, knocking her down, then punched her a second time while she lay on the sidewalk. “I just didn’t want to be fooled,” he said.
“Ms. Nettles, a 21-year-old assistant at a fashion company, died five days later of head injuries she sustained when her head hit the sidewalk. Prosecutors say the evidence shows she was struck repeatedly while she lay on the pavement, ramming her head into the concrete.
“4) As bad as NC’s law is, Mississippi is on the verge of passing a worse one! [Note: It passed, and the governor signed it into law.]
Many states have considered bills that enable discrimination against the LGBT community, but Mississippi’s proposed legislation is perhaps the most explicit in this regard. HB 1523 spells out in storied detail all of the different ways that a person should be able to mistreat people for being LGBT without consequences from the government.”
“Many states have considered bills that enable discrimination against the LGBT community, but Mississippi’s proposed legislation is perhaps the most explicit in this regard. HB 1523 spells out in storied detail all of the different ways that a person should be able to mistreat people for being LGBT without consequences from the government.
“The bill does not pretend to be neutral; it only protects people with anti-LGBT religious beliefs and nobody else:
“The sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions protected by this act are the belief or conviction that:
“(a) Marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman;
“(b) Sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage; and
“(c) Male (man) or female (woman) refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.
“Assessing what kind of discriminatory situations this would enable is easy, because the bill spells those out as well. So long as individuals are motivated by “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction,” any of the following behaviors would have the endorsement of the government:
“Religious organizations can decline to solemnize any marriage or provide any services related to recognizing that marriage.
“Religious organizations can refuse to hire, fire, and discipline employees for violating the organization’s religious beliefs.
“Religious organizations can choose not to sell, rent, or otherwise provide shelter.
“Religious organizations that provide foster or adoptive services can decline service without risking their state subsidies.
“Any foster or adoptive parent can impose their religious beliefs on their children.
“Any person can choose not to provide treatment, counseling, or surgery related to gender transition or same-sex parenting.
“Any person (including any business) can choose not to provide services for any marriage ceremony or occasion that involves recognizing a marriage, including:
Cake or Pastry Artistry
Assembly-Hall or Other Wedding-Venue Rentals
Limousine or Other Car-Service Rentals
Jewelry Sales And Services
Any person can establish “sex-specific standards or policies concerning employee or student dress or grooming,” and can manage the access of restrooms and other sex-segregated facilities.
Any state employee can openly express their beliefs without consequence.
Any state employee can choose not to authorize or license legal marriages by recusing themselves from those duties.
Well, Mississippi is now well protected against its gay citizens.
It is also protected against the arrival or expansion of major corporations that like the freedom to hire people without prying into their private lives.