Demonstrators protest the HB 2 law – Photo: Equality NC, via Wikimedia.
In the showdown between Gov. Roy Cooper and North Carolina’s Republican-led General Assembly over HB 2, it was the governor who blinked first.
As a result, North Carolina lawmakers are now moving forward with a bill to “repeal” HB 2 in name only while keeping the law’s most pernicious provisions. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore announced the compromise legislation late Wednesday night.
Under the terms of the deal, House Bill 142, which had initially dealt with occupational licensing boards, will be gutted and replaced with a one-page bill that “technically” repeals the section of state law created by HB 2, reports WRAL. But lawmakers have inserted language that preempts any locality, state agency, branch of government, university or community college in the state from regulating multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, unless the General Assembly approves the change beforehand.
The bill also places a nearly four-year ban that prohibits any municipality from passing or amending any nondiscrimination ordinance that regulates employment or access to public accommodations (which does not include restrooms, showers or changing facilities). That section is set to expire on Dec. 1, 2020, by which time Republican leaders expect ongoing litigation over HB 2’s provisions and legal challenges to various anti-transgender laws across the country to be resolved by the courts.
The bill is expected to go before a Senate committee on Thursday morning, and will likely be approved by both houses in short order soon after.
The deal is being sold as a “repeal” of HB 2 in the media, but it really just allows Cooper, Berger, and Moore to save face by arguing that the controversial law has been repealed in order to attract major corporations, conventions, and sporting events back to the state. An analysis by the Associated Press recently estimated that North Carolina has lost out on at least $3.76 billion over the next 12 years because of HB 2, with none of that money able to be recouped.
The deal also provides political cover for various sporting associations, including the NCAA, the NBA, and the ACC, who have historically preferred to host sporting championships or other events in North Carolina and may have been concerned about maintaining the current boycott against the state. According to sources within the NCAA, Thursday is the last day by which North Carolina could repeal its law in order to be considered as a potential host city for various sporting championships. Otherwise, the NCAA is likely to pass over the state as a host city through the year 2022.
Additionally, some corporations who are wary of losing customers or clients as a result of their support of transgender rights may embrace the fake “repeal” as justification for them to begin resuming business with the Tar Heel State.
But while most North Carolinians may be relieved at the perception — even if it’s not real — that the HB 2 controversy is “behind them,” LGBTQ groups are practically apoplectic over the proposed deal.
Chris Sgro, the executive director of Equality NC, called the proposal a “train wreck” and urged Cooper and LGBTQ allies in the legislature not to go along with the fake “repeal” effort.
The National Center for Transgender Equality trained its fire on Cooper for agreeing to the so-called “compromise.”
“Let me be clear: this is not a repeal. It’s a cynical ploy that will continue to hurt North Carolina and transgender people,” NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling said in a statement. “Passing this bill would mean that North Carolina continues to be one of the very few states where it’s illegal for cities to protect the rights of their residents. It pushes aside real North Carolinians in favor of political expediency.”
Keisling also noted that the way the “repeal” bill was being pushed through without debate or input from the public was eerily similar to the manner in which HB 2 was passed over a year ago.
“It’s time for North Carolina’s political leaders to get their act together and remember who they’re working for — the North Carolinian public,” Keisling added. “After all, Gov. Cooper ran his campaign on fully repealing HB 2 and protecting transgender North Carolinians. It is an outrageous betrayal that he supports this fake repeal.”
“This so-called ‘deal’ may be an economic quick fix, but it continues to write discrimination into the law,” added Simone Bell, Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal. “A deal that leaves out LGBT North Carolinians, and particularly transgender people, should be no deal at all. … Lawmakers should demand a full, clean repeal, and enact comprehensive non-discrimination protections and not leave our community unprotected in the name of ‘compromise.'”