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As Deals Go, HB 2 Repeal Was Messy, But Passed Easily

Governor Roy Cooper
Gov. Roy Cooper announces that he signed HB 2 repeal bill Thursday.

House Bill 2 is no longer on the books. Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill Thursday afternoon to repeal and replace the controversial law. The measure easily passed the state House and Senate earlier in the afternoon. Those who oppose the repeal include people who both supported and opposed House Bill 2.

As deals go, this was a messy one, full of fits and starts. Governor Roy Cooper said it's far from ideal, but it gets the job done.

"Companies that I have talked to, companies that I have recruited who were hesitant or refusing to bring businesses to our state, before the passage of today's bill, now are are telling me we are coming."

Supporters of the compromise also hoped the action would satisfy the NCAA, which pulled college sports championships from the state after HB 2 passed last year. It's close to picking venues for the next few years, and threatened to exclude North Carolina if HB 2 wasn't repealed by this week.

House Speaker Tim Moore thinks the deal will work:

“This puts the state law of North Carolina squarely with 30 other states,” Moore said after the House vote. “With this law being passed now, there's absolutely no justification for sports leagues, businesses, any entity, any individual to treat North Carolina any different than 30 other states, for example, on non-discrimination ordinances, comply with what the federal standard is.”

The compromise essentially returns North Carolina law where it was before House Bill 2 - at least on the bathroom issue. It lets transgender people use the restroom of their choice - as long as they don't violate indecent exposure and other state laws.  Kind of a "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

However, it says cities and counties can't adopt their own nondiscrimination ordinances, set local minimum wages or adopt other ordinances regulating private employment practices. Those provisions will disappear after 2020.

The repeal passed both houses with wide margins and bipartisan support. First in the Senate, which took only 15 minutes to act, and later in the House, where the hour and a half debate was tense at times.  

To some legislators, the bill was a chance to reset the discussion about LGBT people. Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Charlotte) didn't support HB 2, but said this repeal was a tough call.  

“People in society will continue to demand their rights. Let us be mindful of all people as we make our decision. I ask for your support for the bill. Let’s start fresh, today is that day,” she said.

But statements like that didn't satisfy the Human Rights Campaign and other LGBT advocates, who complain the state still doesn't do enough to protect the rights of LGBT people. To President Chad Griffin, it was no deal at all.

“It is simply a new version of HB 2 that abandons LGBT people and targets the transgender community again, and especially and leaves thousands of North Carolinians vulnerable to discrimination at home, at work and in their communities,” he said.

Those who liked House Bill 2's bathroom protections lamented losing the requirement that transgender people use the restroom of the gender on their birth certificates. Here's Tami Fitzgerald of the NC Values Coalition.  

“We remain committed to advocating for a statewide standard on privacy protections in bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities in schools and public buildings. And if we could change one thing, that's what we would put in it,” Fitzgerald said.

Some conservatives both in and outside the legislature were unhappy that the votes were timed to meet the NCAA deadline. That was on the mind of Francis de Luca, president of the conservative Civitas Institute.

“Well, (I) feel that it's kind of a shame that the legislature folded to pressure from groups that basically were blackmailing them with economic boycotts. That is a bad way to legislate, and sets a dangerous precedent for the future,” De Luca said.

State Sen. Dan Bishop (R - Charlotte), who authored the original HB 2, also was disappointed. He thinks the deal went too far by allowing local governments to adopt non-discrimination ordinances beginning in December 2020.

“It almost inescapably implies that 32 months hence, handfuls of local officials can use government power to coerce people to embrace an ideology of sexual ethics contrary to their values. It is in that sense a declaration of surrender, albeit, three plus years in advance,” Bishop said during the House debate.  

Now that HB 2 is off the books, that doesn't mean the debate goes away. LGBT advocates had sued to halt HB 2, and they say they may challenge this one, too.

David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.