Raleigh, N.C. — House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters Thursday afternoon that he is continuing to talk with Senate counterparts about how to repeal and replace House Bill 2, the controversial measure dealing with LGBT rights and the use of bathrooms by transgender people.
Members of the House Republican caucus met behind closed doors for hours Wednesday night and Thursday morning but seemed no closer to agreement on what, if anything, they should do about the law. In particular, sports organizations like the NCAA and some big businesses have moved away from holding events in the state or expanding operations here due to outcry over House Bill 2.
Republicans are struggling to find a way to satisfy those business interests without abandoning what they see as protection for women and girls – and what members of the LGBT community see as discriminatory. In the latest on-again, off-again House Bill 2 revision effort, Moore had warned House members that they may have to work Friday, supposedly to accommodate work on a deal. But that prospect vanished by early afternoon Thursday, along with any thought a deal would be reached this week.
"There's a bill that Sen. (Phil) Berger and I have been discussing," Moore, R-Cleveland, said.
Berger, R-Rockingham, the Senate president pro tem, said Wednesday that, while he and Moore had been talking, no single bill has garnered traction.
Overnight, House Minority Leader Darren Jackson suggested that those discussion had included a religious freedom bill that would give people the right to sue the state or local governments if they think their religious freedom is impinged. Jackson, D-Wake, distributed images of a bill that he said was in the mix.
But Moore denied that language, sometimes called a RFRA bill, was part of what's being discussed.
"There is no RFRA," Moore said. "There has been discussion of a conscious protection provision."
It's not clear what the difference between those two things might be.
Business leaders have said privately, Moore said, that they now wish they hadn't joined the boycott of North Carolina and want to find a way to get off "the bandwagon of House Bill 2 backlash."
"I think there are a lot of folks out there who felt like, if enough people piled on, that this General Assembly would fold, and I think it's been very clear, one year later, we have not folded," he said.
While lawmakers search for something that is more palatable to the business community, Moore pledged that the final product would still restrict the use of restrooms by transgender people and would still block local governments from passing any nondiscrimination ordinances that go beyond federal law, meaning they wouldn't include protections for the LGBT community.
He said his ultimate goal is to align North Carolina's laws with those of neighboring states while still keeping requirements that men and women use the bathroom and locker room corresponding to their gender on the books.
"I think a lot of people don't want North Carolina being the poster child on some of these social issues either way," he said.