Political, ideological tension mark potential HB2 repeal session
Posted December 20, 2016
Updated December 21, 2016
Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers will return to Raleigh yet again on Wednesday for expected votes that would repeal House Bill 2, the controversial state law limiting LGBT rights.
But some people expressed uncertainty and trepidation Tuesday at whether the fifth special legislation session this year will produce repeal legislation as expected.
"Given what happened last week with Republicans' abuse of power, given what happened with when House Bill 2 was passed, I'm not willing to fully trust anything until I see what's before me and I have the chance to vote on it in that moment," said Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange.
Last week, a special session called to approve an aid package to victims of Hurricane Matthew and mountain wildfires morphed into a second session in which the GOP majority passed legislation curtailing some of incoming Gov. Roy Cooper's appointment powers and another bill putting Republicans in charge of state and county election boards during election years.
House Bill 2 was passed in a one-day emergency session in March in order to nullify a Charlotte ordinance that would have required businesses in the city to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. But the state law also barred the LGBT community from nondiscrimination protections, setting off national criticism that led to canceled concerts, conventions and athletic events.
Earlier attempts to compromise on a repeal failed, and some political observers said the issue played a role in Cooper's defeat of Gov. Pat McCrory, who frequently defended the law.
"All the earlier deals were only rumors, but they also included some type of catch, and Democrats have never been willing to do anything but full repeal," Meyer said.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, said Cooper and his supporters blocked the earlier compromises to help his campaign.
"Why was it not acceptable when the legislature put it out there several months ago? And why did Roy Cooper decide he was against this deal before he was for it? It was political, political, political, political," Woodhouse said. "I think what you see this week happening lays to bare the naked political nature of Roy Cooper and the Charlotte Democrats who wanted this fight for political purposes."
Sources close to the Cooper campaign said Cooper always wanted a full repeal with no strings attached in order to win back business for the state.
The Charlotte City Council voted Monday morning to repeal the city's transgender nondiscrimination ordinance if the General Assembly repealed House Bill 2 in full by Dec. 31. The council this summer balked at repealing the ordinance.
"Things are no different now than they were except Roy Cooper won an election," Woodhouse said.
"We didn't put together this agreement," said Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, the executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina.
Sgro said he just wants to make sure a repeal finally happens.
"I think, if the legislature doesn't follow through, it would be a massive failure of leadership like the state has never seen, and I don't think the business community will tolerate it," he said.
Legislative leaders are working to make sure they have the votes to make the latest special session happen. They're dealing with Christmas week schedules and Republican lawmakers worried about staying in line with their conservative base as they try to obtain a quorum in both the House and the Senate and enough people in favor of a repeal to pass it.
Rallies both for and against HB2 are scheduled at the Legislative Building.
"I don't want to campaign about HB2. It's not what I want to be talking about," Meyer said. "I'd much rather be talking about families and jobs and schools and things that the state should be focusing on. HB2 should have never happened, and it's still a distraction."