North Carolina Governor-elect Roy Cooper (D) says that a deal may be in the works to repeal the state’s HB 2 law after the Charlotte City Council voted unanimously to rescind the city’s pro-LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. Under the terms approved by the Council, the state’s General Assembly has until Dec. 31 to repeal HB 2 in full, or else the nondiscrimination ordinance goes back into effect.
In response to the Council’s actions, outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory has called for a special session to consider the repeal of HB 2. But whether the Republican-dominated General Assembly will accept the ultimatum given to them by Charlotte remains to be seen.
The News & Observer reports that it was Cooper who was instrumental in convincing the Democratic-led City Council to vote to repeal the ordinance. Republicans in Raleigh said they only voted to pass HB 2 in order to prevent cisgender women and girls from being forced under the nondiscrimination ordinance to share intimate spaces like restrooms or locker rooms with people whose assigned sex at birth was male.
Cooper said in a statement that Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore had promised to hold a special session to repeal HB 2 on Tuesday. Cooper said that repealing the ordinance would help bring back jobs, sports and entertainment events that had previously boycotted the state because of the law, which restricts transgender people’s access to restrooms and overturned local nondiscrimination ordinances that extend protections to LGBT people.
Republicans were justifiably outraged, considering that McCrory had offered a similar deal to the Charlotte City Council and Mayor Jennifer Roberts earlier in the year. But the Charlotte Democrats rejected that deal, in part because they did not trust McCrory to keep his word. Still, Republicans contended, the willingness to switch positions showed that the Council members had only been playing politics in an effort to hurt McCrory’s re-election bid. Polls showed that the law, and the economic backlash to it, was one of the primary drivers of McCrory’s defeat.
But LGBT advocates believe there should be no compromise. Rep. Chris Sgro (D-Greensboro), the executive director of Equality North Carolina, has previously said HB 2 repeal should go forward but the local protections in Charlotte should stay in place. But the final result will depend on whether Republicans in the General Assembly decide to take the deal, which they are being urged by some business leaders to accept.
Charlotte Mayor Pro Tempore Vi Lyles told the News & Observer that council members would try to pass some LGBT protections in 2017. But any such legislation would likely have to either exclude transgender people completely, or could include protections for LGBT people in public accommodations except for public restrooms and locker rooms. Otherwise, General Assembly leaders could attempt to revive HB 2 once again.