Response to HB-2 and the upcoming Duke University Workshop on MSIs

On Thursday, MSI Integrity and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University will be co-convening an academic workshop on the design and efficacy of multi-stakeholder initiatives. This is part of MSI Integrity’s ongoing partnership with the Duke Human Rights Center at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, which has been focused on mapping multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs). The event will include experts on international law, sustainability, human rights, and corporate social responsibility from several universities based in the U.S. and U.K. Details on the workshop are available here.

We are looking forward to a vibrant and thought-provoking workshop, and to sharing the broader lessons learned. However, as a human rights organization, MSI Integrity is acutely aware that core human rights protections are under threat in the workshop’s host state of North Carolina. In particular, we are concerned about House Bill 2 (HB-2), passed by the North Carolina State Assembly and signed into law in March, which is an intentional and appalling assault on the rights of LGBTQ+ people and workers throughout the state. The bill codifies discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to eliminating protections against workplace discrimination and other unjust employment practices.

HB-2 has prompted widespread condemnation by civil society, political leaders, and the private sector. Several state governments and cities have condemned HB-2, and some, including New York State, Minnesota, Atlanta, and Chicago, have prohibited non-essential public employee travel to North Carolina. Human Rights Campaign has organized a letter signed by CEOs of over 160 major U.S. corporations calling on the state to repeal HB-2. Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the State of North Carolina, alleging that HB-2 discriminates against transgender individuals in violation of federal civil rights protections.

After discussion with LGBTQ+ student groups at Duke University, as well as with staff at Equality North Carolina, MSI Integrity has decided to move forward with the workshop and use it as an opportunity to deepen local engagement and support efforts to improve LGBTQ+ and workers’ rights.

We have taken the following steps in light of our serious concerns about the bill and its implications for human rights:

  • We have called for repeal of HB-2 in a letter to the Governor and legislative leadership in North Carolina.
  • We have written to Duke University urging university administrators to listen to requests from students and staff to enhance protections and safety for those adversely affected by HB-2. This includes disclosing a clear timeline for releasing a list of trans-safe spaces on the Duke campus and in the surrounding community, implementing recent commitments to modify single-occupancy bathroom signs to read as gender neutral, and strengthening anti-discrimination policies to improve protections for transgender individuals. We have also requested to meet with university officials to understand how they are responding to diminished LGBTQ+ and workers’ rights in light of HB-2.
  • As long as HB-2 remains in force, MSI Integrity will consider views of affected communities before planning or participating any further events in North Carolina.

If you would like to review copies of our letters to the Governor of North Carolina, leaders of the state’s General Assembly, or to Duke University, which were jointly signed by several workshop participants, please email me at ben@msi-integrity.org.

Update: See our follow-up post on the conference and engagement with Duke University officials.

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