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HB 2 Dominates Lt. Gov. Debate

NC Government /twitter.com/LindaForNC

Arguably the most vocal supporter of House Bill 2 is up for reelection this year. And his name is not Pat McCrory.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest helped call the special session that passed HB 2.

And the Republican remains an unflinching proponent of the law. On Tuesday night he debated Linda Coleman, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor.

Dan Forest’s closing statement was a blur of words and numbers. "We cut income tax by a $1.5 billion. A total of $4.5 billion in tax cuts in three and a half years. We paid back $2.8 billion to the federal government for unemployment insurance," more numbers followed.

The speedy recitation of what the Republican sees as his greatest hits in office was made necessary by the law he helped usher in.

This debate was sandwiched between days which saw first the NCAA pulling championships then the ACC following suit.

HB 2 was back in the news and the subject of the debate’s first question asked by newspaper editor Bobby Burns. "HB 2 has become one of the most divisive political issues in recent memory. Illustrated most recently by Monday’s announcement by the NCAA. How can we reconcile support for transgender people who want to use the bathroom that matches who they are on the inside with the desire of so many North Carolinians who don’t want to share that very personal and private part of their lives?"

Forest made reference to his wife and daughter in the audience, then he attacked Charlotte city leaders. "They actually said that in the city of Charlotte, you have to take the signs off the bathrooms."

That claim is absolutely false.

Still Forest brought it up again and again. "They struck through that provision saying you have to take the signs down. That’s extreme saying you have to take the signs down or its sex discrimination. That is extreme. That is extreme not just in Charlotte it’s extreme all over the country."

In her response, Democrat Linda Coleman focused on numbers in the aftermath of HB 2. "HB 2 has cost the state of North Carolina millions of dollars. It has already cost the city of Charlotte over a quarter of a billion dollars."

That number is based on estimates made by the Charlotte Chamber and other groups which looked at the long term impact of losing 400 PayPal jobs, the NBA All Star Game, some conventions and other events. But since it is an estimate it’s impossible to verify.

The next question again focused on the controversial law. In particular the fact the state’s own lawyer has argued the bill has no enforcement provisions. Coleman said HB 2 is a toothless law, but one that still has bite. "In fact what it is doing is it is making North Carolina a test laboratory for state sponsored discrimination. We cannot afford that."

Forest said HB 2’s bathroom provisions would be enforced just like any other law. "Police investigate if there is a complaint then they determine is it going to be a trespassing law that they broke. Is it going to be an indecent exposure law, I don’t know, that would be up to the police. But that would be up to the police."

But the Republican only mentioned enforcing other laws that existed long before HB 2 was enacted.

Which brings us to question number three. "For a man to dress up like a woman to enter a female bathroom for the purpose of committing a sex crime has always been against the law in North Carolina punishable by prison, permanent listing on a sex offender registry. So why," the panelist asked,"is it necessary to ban transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their choice?"

Coleman said it is not. Transgender people aren’t predators. And the state should be focused on others. "We actually have sexual predators out there who we need to be looking at and bringing them to justice instead of praying on people who consider themselves transgender people and people who are not sexual predators but simply want to use the bathroom."

And she again brought up the economic impact of the bill.

Forest’s response was "How many jobs or how many basketball games are worth the protection and the life of a woman or a child in North Carolina from being assaulted in a shower or a locker room?"

Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest, debating Democratic Lieutenant Governor Nominee Linda Coleman. There are no additional debates planned before the November election.