PayPal Doesn't Want to Open an Office in Your Bigoted State, North Carolina

"The new law perpetuates discrimination," PayPal's CEO said.

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Apr 5 2016, 4:25pm

A gender neutral bathroom at UC Irvine. Image: Ted Eytan/Flickr

North Carolina is already feeling the blowback from a controversial law passed two weeks ago dictating where trans individuals are allowed to pee. PayPal, which was set to open a global office in Charlotte, has pulled out in response to the law that bans transgender people from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

"The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal's mission and culture," PayPal president and CEO Dan Schulman wrote in a press release. "This decision reflects PayPal's deepest values and our strong belief that every person has the right to be treated equally, and with dignity and respect. These principles of fairness, inclusion and equality are at the heart of everything we seek to achieve and stand for as a company. And they compel us to take action to oppose discrimination."

The office PayPal had planned would have served as an international operations center and employed 400 people, the company said, but it will now be looking for a new location.

"We do regret that we will not have the opportunity to be a part of the Charlotte community and to count as colleagues the skilled and talented people of the region," Schulman wrote. "As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable."

North Carolina's new law also prohibits local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws and was ushered through during a special session, in part to overturn a Charlotte city council ordinance to allow transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Along with scaring away a $46 billion tech company from setting up shop in the tar heel state, North Carolina now faces a federal lawsuit backed by the American Civil Liberties Union in response to the law. It may even make the state ineligible for piles of federal funding.

Anti-discrimination activists were floored by the law, calling it "cruel and insulting," but North Carolina is far from the only government to consider these kinds of laws. So-called "bathroom bills" have been discussed in at least 13 other states, though North Carolina is the first to sign it into law. In response, some transgender activists have started campaigns photographing themselves in the bathroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate to highlight the absurdity of these kinds of bans.

But aside from being absurd, and likely unconstitutional, these kind of laws can be dangerous. About 70 percent of transgender people have experienced denial of access to facilities, verbal harassment, or physical assault while trying to use a public bathroom, according to a survey published in the Journal of Public Management and Social Policy. As we await the court decisions on the law, it will be interesting to watch if any other companies take a firm stance on this issue like PayPal has.