By Rick Rothacker

Fifty-plus investment managers with more than $2.1 trillion under management are calling for a full repeal of North Carolina's House Bill 2, the controversial law that limits protections for LGBT individuals.

The initiative organized by Trillium Asset Management, the Croatan Institute and the New York City Comptroller is the latest effort by opponents to roll back legislation that has spurred sports boycotts and other economic blows to the state.

"As long-term investors, we can't sit idly by as HB2 undermines fundamental human rights at our expense," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who runs the city's $163 billion pension fund.

HB2 has made it harder to get deals done in North Carolina and find land financing for businesses, said Joshua Humphreys, president of the Croatan Institute, an independent nonprofit research institute based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina.

"This diverse group of investors has therefore come together to call for a full repeal of HB2 -- before the investment climate in our state deteriorates further," he said.

In a statement Monday, the McCrory campaign said it was the "height of hypocrisy" for "New York hedge fund billionaires to lecture North Carolina about how to conduct its affairs."

But Humphreys said McCrory's statement was inaccurate. "What we have is broad-based support from the investment and finance community here in North Carolina," he said, citing examples such as Trillium, Self-Help Credit Unit and SJF Ventures.

The list of investment firms signing Monday's statement includes state pension funds from Connecticut and Rhode Island, the AFL-CIO investment office and big names such as Morgan Stanley Investment Management and RBC Wealth Management. It also includes smaller firms, some of which promote socially responsible investing.

"North Carolina has written discrimination into state law," said Matthew Patsky, CEO of Trillium Asset Management, which manages $2 billion in assets uses environmental, social and governance factors in its investment process. "The unintended consequence has been a backlash that is having material, negative impact on the economy of the state. HB2 must be repealed immediately before this damage becomes irreversible."

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law in March to nullify a Charlotte ordinance, which had generated controversy by protecting transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. HB2 also overrode local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.

Opponents of the law have said it discriminates against LGBT individuals. In protest, the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference have pulled major college sporting events from the state, the NBA moved its All-Star Game from Charlotte, entertainers have canceled performances and business such as PayPal have pulled the plug on expansions.

McCrory has blamed politics for the HB2 fallout and said boycotts are being inconsistently applied to the state.

Following the NCAA and ACC game cancellations this month, the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association announced it was trying to broker a compromise to stop the economic damage from HB2. The Charlotte Chamber, along with hospitality and tourism leaders, also called for the city and state to repeal the original Charlotte ordinance and HB2.

Last week, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, however, said that at least for now, repealing the ordinance that led to House Bill 2 is off the table. McCrory blamed special interest pressure for derailing a "common sense" compromise.

(c)2016 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)