AIA cancels North Carolina conference over anti-LGBT law

The American Institute of Architects has pulled out of hosting a conference in Wilmington, North Carolina, in a protest against the state's new anti-LGBT law.

The AIA South Atlantic Region chapter announced on Monday that it would cancel the three-day event due to a new law that forces transgender people to use single-sex public bathrooms based on the gender on their birth certificate.

"The American Institute of Architects has a long-standing policy of supporting the promotion of human and civil rights, the universal respect for human dignity, and the unbiased treatment of all persons in employment, civic, and business transactions," said a statement on the AIA South Atlantic's website.

"Further, we support the full integration of rights for the LGBT community into our non-discrimination laws at all levels of government and recognise the right of any individual to self identify their own gender with the belief that everyone has the right to live, work and play in a built environment that is safe and secure, which includes public restrooms."

The law, House Bill 2 (HB2), was passed a month ago by North Carolina governor Pat McCory. It bans cities from establishing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) nondiscrimination rules, and prohibits transgender people from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity in public buildings.

The law has sparked an economic backlash and a growing protest movement. More than 100 corporations have expressed severe concern over HB2 in an open letter to McCrory.

AIA South Atlantic said: "Due to the climate of exclusion created in the state of North Carolina by HB 2, and in light of the recent Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on the provision of equal access to restrooms for all students, we join the growing chorus of citizens and entities and call for the judicious and timely repeal of HB 2 in North Carolina as soon as the General Assembly convenes this week."

AIA South Atlantic represents over 5,100 architects in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. The conference, planned for this autumn, was due to be attended by 500 people from surrounding states.

Architecture news: AIA conference cancelled over LGBT law in North Carolina
Last year, New York's MoMA added the Rainbow Flag – the widely recognised symbol for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities – to its design collection

Moving the conference will cost the state almost $1 million (£ 685,000), according to local news source WECT.

"For the area, it's a piece of business that we are losing, so that's never good news, but it's a potential that we could find something to fit in the hole," said John Sneed, vice president of sales and services for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"It does support our tourism industry here," Sneed said. "The more events we have in, of course, the more people the hotels can employ."

A number of musicians, including Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr and Pearl Jam, have refused to be involved with events in North Carolina since the motion was put into force.

The North Carolina governor has said that reasons for imposing the law include fear that sexual predators would pretend to be transgender to prey on targets.

"House Bill 2, which in a single day became law, was portrayed as protection for the safety of women and children in our public restrooms and schools," said AIA South Atlantic, "when in fact, the concern for safety which everyone shares, should have been a component of a comprehensive, thoughtful work of legislation that took into consideration the rights and needs of everyone."

Calls to repeal the law have resulted in a petition with over 180,000 signatures, but so far the state's legislators have remained steadfast.