Durham, N.C. — The tenuous compromise state Democratic and Republican leaders crafted last week to rescind a controversial law limiting LGBT rights may have collapsed under the weight of some ill-timed social media posts.
State lawmakers met for almost 10 hours Wednesday in a special legislative session aimed at repealing House Bill 2 but wound up leaving town without accomplishing anything – aside from getting so frustrated that they blamed each other for their failure.
Now, they could have a new target: Twitter.
"The words in social media by the mayor of Charlotte were not helpful. They hurt the process," Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, said Friday. "Other council people in other cities hurt the process during the day, and I think it was very unfortunate."
House Bill 2 was passed in March to nullify a Charlotte ordinance that would have required businesses to allow transgender people to use the public bathroom of their choice. The Charlotte City Council voted this week to roll back its ordinance with the understanding that lawmakers would then repeal the state law.
But lawmakers said Charlotte hadn't completely rescinded its ordinance on Monday as officials said they had – the City Council held an emergency meeting early Wednesday before the legislative session to complete the city's side of the bargain – so Republican legislative leaders insisted on a moratorium on new local nondiscrimination ordinances statewide.
"I don't trust them," Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said of Charlotte leaders Wednesday night, explaining the reason for the moratorium.
That essentially killed the deal, with Democrats saying the GOP had reneged on its promise of a repeal-for-repeal deal.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts' personal and official Twitter accounts don't currently contain any posts from Wednesday, although some may have since been deleted. But Dollar also pointed to Durham City Councilman Charlie Reese's Twitter posts as helping to poison the House Bill 2 repeal deal.
"I think it was very clear from social media that other council members in other communities were saying they were preparing to act," Dollar said.
Reese tweeted Monday, when Gov. Pat McCrory called the special session, that communities would soon be able to take action to prevent discrimination.
Durham Mayor Bill Bell said Friday that the City Council had no plans to adopt any nondiscrimination ordinance if House Bill 2 was off the books, and he said he wished local officials would have kept quiet during the sensitive negotiations over House Bill 2.
"When you hear that there are other council members raising issues about what they would do after it's repealed, it's really concerning, and I don't think it's very responsible," Bell said. "I'm not saying that's the reason they didn't repeal it. They had a lot of reasons, but you don't want to give them something to add on to it."
Reese declined to comment, referring to subsequent tweets in which he laughs off the notion that he was responsible for the deal's collapse.
Although distrust on both sides still lingers, Dollar said state leaders plan to continue working on a way to move past House Bill 2, which has led to national scorn for the state and numerous lost conventions, concerts and athletic events, when the General Asseembly reconvenes in January.
"I also believe that people can continue to try and work on this issue to get the appropriate resolution," he said.