A furniture convention might be what stops North Carolina's ridiculous anti-LGBT law.

High Point, North Carolina, isn't just home to the world's largest chest of drawers.

That's it? Photo by Cmalaspina/Wikimedia Commons.


It's also the site of the High Point Market: a multibillion-dollar biannual furniture expo.

Contrary to popular belief, the expo sells lots of furniture, not just one really cool couch for $5 billion. Photo by PoshSurfside.com/Flickr.

And while a furniture convention might seem like an odd leader in the fight against anti-LGBT discrimination, well .... we live in odd times.

The executive committee of the High Point Market released a sternly-worded statement Monday, warning the North Carolina state government of the intense economic backlash brewing in response to the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

The law, signed last week by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory...

Pat is having a hard day. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

...forces transgender people to use the restroom that corresponds to their sex as assigned at birth.

"Based on the reaction in just the last few days, hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April," the High Point Market statement read.

The law, the convention's organizers argue, would put the expo's $5 billion annual contribution to the state economy at risk.

The backlash against the law, which was passed so quickly it took many by surprise, continues to grow.

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images.

According to a CNN Money report, the state of New York has already banned, "non-essential travel to North Carolina by state agencies." The mayor of Seattle has banned travel from his city to the state as well.

The NBA released a statement indicating it may pull the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte. The NCAA suggested it might do the same with its annual March Madness tournament.

American Airlines, Lowe's, Biogen, and PayPal — all of which have large presences in North Carolina, or are planning to expand to the state — denounced the law.

And the good news? If recent history is any guide, the pressure just might work.

A combination of business and activist pressure helped to convince Indiana to moderate its anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law last year.

Opposition from Disney, the NFL, Coca-Cola, and others helped to convince Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to veto a similar bill a few weeks ago.

Will the same strategy work in North Carolina? If nothing else, the state's legislators are finding out what the people of High Point know all too well:

Seriously. Photo by Cmalaspina/Wikimedia Commons.

You don't mess with the chest.

Courtesy of Movemeant Foundation

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!