North Carolina’s absurd, hateful new law, prohibiting people from using the bathroom that matches their gender identity, has caused a backlash against the state as a convention and tourism destination. The NBA moved the All-Star game from Charlotte because of the law, and a variety of other groups have also canceled plans for conventions in North Carolina, either because they are boycotting the state directly, or as a result of pressure from customers, members, potential attendees, potential exhibitors, and corporate sponsors.
This week, while exhibiting at the Channel Partners Evolution conference in Washington DC, I learned that next year, the event will be in Charlotte, North Carolina. (This location information doesn’t yet appear on their web sites!) I immediately informed Informa Exhibitions that our company won’t exhibit or attend.
That was a bit premature and presumptuous of me, since I hadn’t yet discussed the issue with our company’s owner. But when I returned to Fremont, he agreed that if I wasn’t comfortable going there, then we won’t be represented there.
I was somewhat amused that when I raised the issue with one of Informa’s sales representatives, he acted as if I was the first person to mention the issue. Later, I discussed this with some other exhibitors, who shared the exact same story: when they raised the issue of North Carolina’s discriminatory law, their sales reps also pretended that it was the first time the issue had ever been raised.
I do understand Informa’s position. I don’t know when they chose the location, but they’re clearly very price-sensitive — else, why schedule these conventions in August in the hot, humid mid-Atlantic region? Changing the location now would likely mean forfeiting deposits and might louse up non-refundable travel plans for some people.
But in my mind, there was no decision to be made; I’m not going to visit North Carolina while the state legislature’s unconstitutional law continue in effect. Why would I want to visit a place where the law deliberately incites hate against any group?
Yes, I know that more than half of North Carolina residents believe that the law is wrong. Perhaps in November, they will vote for legislators who will repeal the law and denounce the hateful ideas it embodies. If so, I might be able to attend this event.