McCrory and ‘Religious Freedom’: Politics or Business?

The governor said this morning he doesn't support anti-LGBT legislation. But why?

Gov. Pat McCrory made news this morning when, on WFAE-FM’s “Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins,” he said he doesn’t support the proposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” that would legalize discrimination against LGBT people. The prevailing take afterward seemed to be: Here goes old “moderate” Pat, tacking to the center in advance of the 2016 gubernatorial election against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper.

Which I’m sure it is—in part. But I think there’s something more at work here than positioning.

The reaction to Indiana’s own “religious freedom” law has been extraordinary, and genuinely historic—marking the first time in U.S. history (as far as I can tell) that a law that undermines the civil rights of gay people has immediately and directly harmed a state’s economic prospects. For someone like McCrory, a classic Chamber of Commerce Republican who made a pact with the most extreme elements of his party to win election, and who has stressed from his first day in office that North Carolina is running a race for high-end jobs against its peer states, this development has to summon the fear of God, so to speak.

Plus, I’m not sure how much a move to the center would help McCrory win re-election. The urban moderates and Democrats inclined to vote for him in 2012 because of his moderate record as Charlotte’s mayor won’t be so easily persuaded this time.

I’ll bet his comments were part of a conscious effort to persuade the corporate world that North Carolina is still willing to do business with anyone inclined to buy. If it comes down to this, I’ll be interested to see if the governor puts his veto pen where his mouth is.

Categories: Poking the Hornet’s Nest