High-profile group wants to quell HB2 furor

Posted May 25, 2016
Updated May 26, 2016

— A group of high-profile non-government leaders hope to spark a conversation and perhaps legislative changes to House Bill 2, which has roiled the state's political waters and spawned multiple lawsuits over the past two months.

The group would be led by former Lt. Gov. Dennis Wicker, a Democrat, and Raleigh businessman Art Pope, a prominent Republican donor who served as Gov. Pat McCrory's budget director. John Hood, a leader in North Carolina's conservative circles, is also helping to organize the effort, and former Republican Gov. Jim Martin has agreed to serve as one of several honorary chairmen.

"That is what I proposed. That we say we are going to lay down our weapons here for a while and give all of us a chance to talk together and try to learn a little something," Martin said.

Hood said the group hopes to tap around a dozen people from different walks of life, such as school leaders, businessmen and advocates on either side of the issue.

"North Carolina is a place of very opinionated people who disagree often, but this can show we're willing to talk about it," Hood said.

If successful, he said, the working group would forge at least some legal fixes that might tamp down opposition to the bill. On other topics related to House Bill 2, he said, they may have to settle for lowering the level of vitriol in the dialogue.

In an interview with WRAL News last week, Martin said that he hoped all sides could take a step back from the rhetoric surrounding the bill.

"That is what I propose, that we say we are going to lay down our weapons here for a while and give all of us a chance to talk together and try to learn a little something," Martin said.

Nationally, House Bill 2 is known as the "bathroom bill." It reversed a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that would have required local businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom or locker room of their choosing. The state law now says businesses can set their own policies, but for publicly owned changing facilities and restrooms – whether in a public school, university, state facility or city-owned pool – people must use the locker room corresponding with the sex noted on their birth certificate.

"The Democratic majority on the City Council didn't give a hoot what the conservatives were concerned about. They were going to do what they were doing to do," Martin said.

However, the bill goes further. It establishes the first statewide nondiscrimination law but specifically excludes gay and transgender people from those protections and prohibits cities and counties from adding LGBT protections in many instances. It also ends wrongful termination lawsuits in state court, meaning that people suing employers for age, sex, race and other forms of discrimination must use the more costly and time-limited federal system.

"Here come a bunch of amendments to take away access to the courts, to do this, to do that, and it just became a debacle that has become very embarrassing and damaging to the state's economy," Martin said.

The bill has drawn national opprobrium, sparking concert cancelations, late-night talk show gibes, outrage from business leaders and lawsuits, including a U.S. Department of Justice discrimination suit against the state and the University of North Carolina system. The true economic costs are hard to pin down, but Martin said last week that the tit-for-tat between the state and City of Charlotte had cost North Carolin in reputation and commerce.

The Charlotte City Council and state lawmakers have been in something of a standoff, each apparently waiting for the other to take the first move. That first move almost came Monday night when the council talked about repealing its ordinance. It backed off that vote, and top lawmakers said this week that action by Charlotte would have to be a precursor to any major rewrite of the controversial parts of the state law.

"You can't really wait for an initial show of good faith," Hood said. "There needs to be some high-level discussion immediately."

​Hood said the working group he is helping to assemble could potentially come up with some agreed-upon fixes that people on both sides of the issue could agree with. For the issues that can't be negotiated, he said, there could at least be conversation and a better understanding of both sides' points of view.

He said a locally negotiated solution was preferable to waiting for courts to settle the matter because litigation can take years of arguments and appeals before it is finally settled.

"I'm not sure we can wait," Hood said.

Although both sides may not agree on everything, Martin said it is important that people start talking to each other again.

"I have not heard a better solution for something to do right now, to put a stop to all the anguish we are going through," he said.


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  • Kathryn Adams May 26, 2016
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    Very true. Our society might have to stop giving preferential treatment to one gender or the other (jobs, scholarships, parental rights, half-priced drinks) and start judging everyone according to their qualifications and experience, regardless of what's in their pants.

  • Charles Edwards May 26, 2016
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    Jim Martin is on this? The same Jim Martin that whitewashed the UNC academic scandal? So much for 'High-Profile Group' credibility.

  • Kathryn Adams May 26, 2016
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    I would think so. I imagine it's like any kind of grant or assistance for Christian entrepreneurs; if there's money involved they're going to want a little more proof than just you SAYING that you're part of the group they're giving money to.

  • Xander Bogaerts May 26, 2016
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    View quoted thread


  • Pete Muller May 26, 2016
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    That is a great idea as long as the talk is about the real meat of HB2, not the pathetic bathroom smokescreen.

  • Judy Loftin May 26, 2016
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    You either let transgenders in the girls bathrooms or you don't. Another Committee trying to compromise is a waste of time and money.

  • Ronnie Smith May 25, 2016
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    From Roger Clements,
    "It was Republicans that overwhelming voted and passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964."

    A more accurate representation of the truth would be that Congressional representatives from the Northern states passed the legislation---it just happened to be at the time that the Democrats still had most of the Southern representatives.

    (see Wikipedia)

  • Roger Clements May 25, 2016
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    BTW, it was a Republican president called Abraham Lincoln that ended slavery much to the dismay of Democrat slave holders across the south and elsewhere in this country.

  • Demute Sainte May 25, 2016
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    No doubt the media (especially WRAL) would like to keep HB2 in the news. It is what they are in business for... even if they have to stoke the story up a bit to garner viewers.

    And no doubt this is a looooong list of politically active and involved leaders, even if they dont happen to hold a current political office right now.

    And with 11 States joining the fight against the DOJ and DOE unconstitutional over-reach... the issue WILL be solved by the court.

    In the end, regardless of how the courts rule... I seriously doubt our nation, our state or our society will be better off.

    But as for talking... I'm all for it. And this is a step in the right direction.

  • Tom Sturgis May 25, 2016
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    Non-government? Who writes this garbage? A former governor, a former LT governor, a former budget director, etc. Jim Martin couldn't even find 2 decades of academic/athletic fraud in Chapel Hill when it was staring him in the face. Why can't Ric Flair be in charge of this committee?