Talk of HB2 repeal deal resurfaces

Posted September 16, 2016 6:20 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2016 7:18 p.m. EDT

— A group representing restaurants and hotels said Friday that it has been working behind the scenes to broker a deal that could lead to the repeal of House Bill 2, but there's no guarantee anything will come from the effort.

Lynn Minges, president and chief executive of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, said her group has "received assurances" from legislative leaders that the General Assembly is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2, provided that the Charlotte City Council first repeals a local ordinance that requires businesses to allow transgender people to use the public restroom of their choosing.

"We feel confident that, if Charlotte will repeal the ordinance, that we can get a special session called by the governor to repeal House Bill 2," Minges said.

Josh Ellis, a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory, said not only would the Charlotte ordinance need to be repealed, but legislative leaders would have to confirm they had enough votes to repeal House Bill 2 before the governor would call the General Assembly into a special session.

"For the last nine months, the governor has consistently said state legislation is only needed if the Charlotte ordinance remains in place," Ellis said in an email.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger were unavailable for comment Friday. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts didn't respond to a request for comment.

Charlotte spokeswoman Gina DiPietro said in a statement that city leaders "are in the process of evaluating any potential next steps."

A growing number of Republican lawmakers have joined Democrats in calling for a repeal. Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, was first, followed by Rep. Gary Pendleton, R-Wake, and Sen. Rick Gunn, R-Alamance. On Friday, Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, and Rep. John Bradford, R-Mecklenburg, also called for a repeal.

"It's time to put politics aside and unite," Tarte and Bradford said in a joint statement. "Everyone needs to come together for the sake of the Charlotte and North Carolina economy. No party is pure in this issue, and we both need to walk the process back and start over."

Minges' member businesses have borne the brunt of the economic pain caused by canceled conventions, concerts and sporting events in recent months following the passage of House Bill 2 in March.

To nullify Charlotte's ordinance, lawmakers quickly approved the law, which requires transgender individuals to use bathrooms in schools and other public buildings that correspond to their birth gender and prohibits discrimination protections from being extended to gay and transgender people.

Lawmakers tried this summer to convince the Charlotte City Council to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance, saying that would have to happen before they would consider a repeal of House Bill 2, but the council rejected that deal.

Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, denounced the push for Charlotte to repeal its anti-discrimination ordinance. Sgro, who also heads LGBT advocacy group Equality North Carolina, urged Charlotte leaders to keep the local law in place, noting that more than 100 other cities nationwide have similar protections on the books.

"It's HB2 that cost us the NCAA, ACC and the NBA. It's HB2 that's causing us economic harm, and it's HB2 that needs to be repealed," he said in a statement. "Enough games and blame, repeal HB2."

Meanwhile, the decisions this week by the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference to move more than a dozen collegiate sports tournaments out of North Carolina over the next year because of House Bill 2 once again landed the controversial law on the presidential campaign trail.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called the law legalized discrimination during a Thursday rally in Greensboro.

"Look at what's happening with the NCAA and the ACC. This is where bigotry leads, and we can't afford it. Not here, not anywhere else in America," Clinton said.

The Trump campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.