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Conference relocates to Baltimore from Charlotte to protest HB2

In response to the North Carolina state legislature’s failure to repeal House Bill 2, a law that limits protections for LGBT people in the state, a professional organization for business historians is moving its 2018 annual meeting from Charlotte to Baltimore.

“We have been discussing this issue with the H.B. 2 bill in Charlotte for months,” said Roger Horowitz, secretary and treasurer for the Business History Conference, a nonprofit that encourages the study of business history and the environment in which businesses operate. The organization was waiting to make a decision based on whether the legislature repealed the law, he said.

Also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” the North Carolina law requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their sex at birth and does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as part of the state’s anti-discrimination protections. The legislature was expected to strike down the law in a special session last week but failed to do so after a night of partisan rancor.

The Charlotte Observer reported that the law has cost North Carolina millions of dollars in lost jobs, sports events and boycotts.

On its website, the BHC said it has been discussing the matter with members and the Charlotte Marriott City Center Hotel, the original venue, for the past nine months. Members were against holding the event in North Carolina as long as H.B. 2 was in effect. The organization’s trustees voted earlier in the month to cancel the contract with the Charlotte Marriott but waited until the legislature did not repeal the law to make a final decision.

Horowitz said that some of BHC’s 400 members might identify as transgender, adding that it’s a personal matter that should not affect a person’s ability to attend the meeting.

“If we do, that’s fine and they should be able to participate in the annual meeting just like everybody else,” Horowitz said.

Around 350 people are expected to attend the 2018 meeting, which will be held at the Embassy Suites in downtown Baltimore. Horowitz said Charm City immediately came to mind when picking a new venue because of its urban environment and access to both train and air travel.  The organization has a strong membership base on the East Coast but also members from across the country. Twenty-five percent of its members live abroad.

On its website, BHC said Marriott was understanding of its decision. He commended the Bethesda-based hotel giant for speaking out against the North Carolina law. Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson has called for the law to be repealed.

“As a global hospitality leader and multi-state employer, these legislative skirmishes can be frustrating and costly. We still see a patchwork of gaps in state and local nondiscrimination laws that add complications and uncertainty for our people and local managers,” wrote Sorenson in an op-ed published by CNBC earlier this year.

Visit Baltimore, the city’s tourism marketing arm, could not confirm the number of groups that have moved events from North Carolina to Baltimore as result of H.B. 2 because it does not comment on the motivation of its customers’ decisions, said Visit Baltimore President and CEO Al Hutchinson in a statement.

“We certainly understand and empathize when any destination marketing organization experiences something that impacts their destination outside of their control. And while we cannot comment on the motivating factors for movement, we can say we remain committed to providing a great Baltimore experience for any group that comes here,” Hutchinson said.

BHC did not go through Visit Baltimore to book its event. Smaller groups typically work directly with hotels.

There are already 81 conferences scheduled to take place in Baltimore in 2018, including 31 at the Baltimore Convention Center and 20 “citywides,” or conferences that secure 1,200 hotel rooms or more, Visit Baltimore said.

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