Raleigh, N.C. — A coalition of religious groups that pressed the General Assembly to pass House Bill 2 last month quickly scrapped a plan Wednesday to have state lawmakers sign a pledge to support it.
The legislation requires people to use the public bathroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate, excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections and bar cities and counties from extended such protections to them. It also prohibits cities from setting their own minimum wage and eliminates the right of workers to sue in state court for job discrimination.
House Bill 2 has come under increase attack by corporate executives, celebrities and others, who have called on lawmakers to repeal it, which prompted the Keep NC Safe coalition to begin circulating a pledge Tuesday night to shore up legislative support for the measure.
The pledge called for signers to oppose any legislation that "would allow men to use women's bathrooms" or "would force private persons and businesses to participate in events, engage in speech or promote ideas that violate their sincerely held beliefs." The pledge also called on lawmakers to oppose efforts to repeal any provision in House Bill 2 or to add the terms "sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression" to any state statute or policy.
Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said the pledge erases any doubts that House Bill 2 is discriminatory legislation.
"It says it right here and makes it very clear they want to be able to put signs up on businesses that say 'No Gays Allowed,'" Jackson said. "I imagine these are the same type of things they had legislators in the '50s and '60s trying to get them to sign, saying they wouldn’t support (civil) rights. It’s no different. It’s just 50 years later."
John Rustin, president of the North Carolina Family Policy Council, sent the pledge to all members of the House and the Senate. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, he had emailed lawmakers, saying the pledge was circulated "inadvertently" and should be ignored.
"We had considered providing a means, prior to the convening of the 2016 Legislative Session, by which we could continue to encourage North Carolina lawmakers to stay strong in your leadership defending the privacy and safety of all North Carolinians, and clarifying that there is no patchwork of confusing local laws in the state that are harmful to commerce, labor, and trade," Rustin said in the email. "However, we decided not to move forward with this pledge and respectfully ask that you disregard yesterday’s e-mail."
He declined further comment about the pledge.
Jackson said he plans to file legislation to repeal House Bill 2 next week when the General Assembly reconvenes. The state's growing business losses clearly show it's necessary, he said.
"I think North Carolinians expect legislators to be pledging to attract jobs to North Carolina, not to drive them away, to attract talent to North Carolina, not to drive it away, to be against discrimination and not for it," he said.
He also credited Gov. Pat McCrory for extending discrimination protections to gay and transgender state workers through an executive order last week.