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Cirque Losing Millions In Ticket Sales, But Says NC's Forced Its Hand

Dominque Lemieux/Cirque du Soleil

Cirque du Soleil has cancelled 15 performances in North Carolina after the passage of a controversial law in the state.

Cirque du Soleil's traveling shows will lose millions in ticket sales by killing 15 shows planned this year for North Carolina.

But Jerry Nadal, senior vice president for Cirque's resident shows in Las Vegas, said the company felt it had no choice.

Nadal, who is also vice chairman of Nevada Public Radio's board of directors, said the discrimination codified in North Carolina's House Bill 2, signed into law recently, was an affront to the company.

“For us, diversity is a big thing for Cirque," he said "We have people from over 50 different countries working for us. We have all nationalities, all religions, sexual orientation. This resonates deeply within our own employee base as well as the people we’re going out to entertain.”

Nadal said the company usually stays away from politics but in this case it had to do something because the sweeping changes the law brought were "so big and so grand" that everyone has taken notice.

“This went beyond politics to a truly discriminatory issue and for us it goes beyond the transgender bathroom issue,” he said.

The bill, which passed the North Carolina State Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this month, voids cities' anti-discrimination rules designed to protect members of the LGBTQ community. 

It was dubbed the 'bathroom bill' because, among other things, it required transgender people to use the bathroom based on the gender listed on their birth certificates.  

Critics also say it eliminates basic protections for members of the LGBTQ community in areas like employment and housing. 

North Carolina's Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order to change some parts of the law for state employees but not for everyone. 

However with the current pressure from business and entertainers that might change again, which is what Nadal and Cirque is hoping for. 

“I think when we bind together to make those kinds of commitments I think it helps to change the laws and people’s attitudes,” he said.

Nadal doesn't think his company's decision by itself will change the state's laws.

"I don’t think Cirque’s move alone will do that but I think Cirque’s move in conjunction with every other company that’s doing that will have the ability to push them towards that,” he said.

Change could also come through the courts. A federal appeals court ruled this week that a lower court should have ruled in favor of a Virginiastudent in a similar bathroom-use case on the basis that the school's policy violates federal Title IX statutes. North Carolina lies within the jurisdiction of that same appeals court.

Jerry Nadal, senior vice president of resident shows, Cirque du Soleil

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.