Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers return to Raleigh on Monday for their 2016 legislative session, and supporters and opponents of a new state law that sets discrimination policy will be out in force to greet them with petitions, rallies and a sit-in.
House Bill 2 has so riled up social conservatives on one side and the LGBT community on the other that it has become the latest flashpoint in the nation's ongoing culture wars. The battle lines Monday will be at the State Capitol, on Halifax Mall north of the legislative complex and inside the Legislative Building itself.
The measure, which was approved in a one-day special legislative session last month and signed into law within hours, requires people to use public bathrooms that match their birth gender, excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections and bars cities and counties from extending such protections to them. It also prohibits cities from setting their own minimum wage and eliminates the ability for workers to sue over job discrimination in state court.
REPEAL EFFORTS: The protests are expected to start at 9:30 a.m., when several LGBT advocacy groups drop off at the State Capitol petitions with thousands of signatures calling for a repeal of House Bill 2.
Reps. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, Grier Martin, D-Wake, Graig Meyer, D-Orange, and Susi Hamilton, D-New Hanover, will follow that up by filing a repeal bill at 11 a.m., followed by a news conference to discuss the legislation.
HB2 SUPPORT: The Keep NC Safe coalition of conservative groups has scheduled a noon rally on Halifax Mall to demonstrate support for House Bill 2 and to encourage that lawmakers who approved it to stand firm against repeal efforts. A similar rally two weeks ago attracted hundreds of people to the State Capitol.
MORAL MONDAY: Monday marks the third anniversary of the weekly protests at the Legislative Building under the "Moral Monday" banner. Rev. William Barber, state president of the NAACP, said the occasion will be marked by a 3 p.m. rally on Bicentennial Mall, followed by a mass sit-in at the legislature at 4 p.m. to protest what he and others are calling "Hate Bill 2."
"This bill is an anti-worker bill. It is an anti-living wage bill. It is an anti-civil rights protection bill. It is an anti-family, anti-children and anti-gay and transgender bill," Barber said at a news conference Friday. "This bill is a mixture of a poisonous brew that is as old as the struggle against racism and injustice in the South."
NEW FACES: The House and the Senate will gavel in for brief sessions at 7 p.m., and several lawmakers will be making their first appearances. Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, the executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, fills the seat of the late Rep. Ralph Johnson. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-Pitt, a Greenville physician, takes over for former Rep. Brian Brown. Rep. Kyle Hall, R-Stokes, a former congressional staffer, takes over for former Rep. Bryan Holloway. Sen. Jay Chaudhuri, D-Wake, an attorney, takes over for former Sen. Josh Stein.
Two legislative seats remain vacant until someone is appointed to fill them. Sen. Dan Soucek, R-Watauga, resigned last month, while Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer, R-Mecklenburg, resigned on Friday.