Update (5/23/16): The Charlotte City Council removed the topic “economic impact of HB2” from the agenda of Monday night’s meeting and decided not to vote on repealing the LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, at least at this time. Read more here.
Charlotte City Council members have been meeting with members of the North Carolina General Assembly over HB2 and the expanded Charlotte ordinance that proceeded it. This has sparked concern among the LGBT community that a compromise is in the works, possibly including a symbolic repeal of the expanded ordinance. HB2 overrode all non-discrimination ordinances in the state, rendering them invalid.
The council’s two Republicans, Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith, were joined by Democrats James Mitchell and Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, both of whom voted for the expanded ordinance. Driggs and Smith voted against.
Sources told The Charlotte Observer talks did not stop there and outlined a possible outcome of these meetings:
Charlotte’s move, according to sources: Rescind the anti-discrimination ordinance the city passed in February, along with others that have been rendered invalid by state law. Council members could call it a “cleaning up” of ordinances that have no power. That’s better politically than calling it a repeal.
The General Assembly’s corresponding move: Repeal and replace HB2 – or at least key parts of it. The replacement could take several forms. One possibility is to allow cities to craft ordinances making sexual orientation a protected class, as Charlotte did, so long as local voters approved the measure in a referendum. Republicans could say they’re letting citizens make the choice, not “radical” city leaders, a concept that could soothe at least some conservative voters back home.
The compromise is not a formal deal. It’s the product of discussions that began with council members who want to save Charlotte from HB2 boycotts – including the 2017 NBA All-Star Game – without abandoning protections against discrimination for the city’s gays and lesbians.
The portion of the bill dealing with transgender people using the bathroom and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, as allowed by Charlotte’s expanded ordinance, or the facilities matching the gender on their birth certificate, as mandated by HB2, will be decided by the dueling court cases between the state and the federal government.
On May 5, Mayor Roberts met with House Speaker Tim Berger and Senate Leader Phil Berger, where they reportedly suggested City Council repeal the expanded ordinance and that if they did they would modify HB2. Council members would not say whether a similar deal was discussed in their meeting.
Lyles suggested an amended version of the expanded ordinance last year, after it failed to pass, which would have left out transgender bathroom and locker room facility protections. That amended version was voted down as well when members LaWana Mayfield and John Autry refused to leave that group behind.
While Roberts toned down her rhetoric after Gov. McCrory signed an executive order granting protections to some LGBT state employees, at the urging from The Charlotte Chamber, she told attendees of the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund luncheon on May 11 that LGBT equality was “not negotiable” and is calling for the full repeal of HB2.
Natalie English, The Charlotte Chamber’s lobbyist, told Charlotte Business Journal that they do not favor a full repeal of the bill. She said they seek continued dialogue and support at least one measure found in HB2: forbidding cities from raising their minimum wage. English calls this “good policy” from their perspective and states, “We didn’t ask for it, but we like it.”
Now LGBT rights organizations are responding, thanking the Charlotte City Council for doing what was right in expanding the non-discrimination ordinance and asking them not to back down and cut a deal with the NCGA.
MeckPAC released a statement on Friday saying they were “unwavering” in their support of the city council and Mayor Roberts for standing “on the right side of history.”
The group followed this up by expressing concern over the meetings with the NCGA as well as talk at a recent city council meeting that has struck some as laying the groundwork for a compromise, as Council Member Mitchell is recommending a referral and review of economic impact of HB2 to economic committee. This has caused concern that this may be a pretense to suggesting the repeal of Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance. Council Member Autry seemed particularly concerned with the request.
The statement, which you can read in its entirety below, continues:
While we encourage an open exchange of ideas and information, we will not condone any endeavor that endangers or results in the repeal of the Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance. Charlotte took bold steps to side with morality over political posturing on February 22nd, 2016, and we expect the continued support of our endorsed candidates in protecting the hard work of the council, long after HB2 is repealed. If this is not the case, we plan to take appropriate action to protect our community, including, but not limited to, rescinding endorsements made in previous years, and finding candidates that will uphold equality.
They encourage concerned citizens to contact their representatives to voice their support of the ordinance and to attend the Charlotte City Council dinner meeting on Monday, May 23 at 5 p.m., in room 267 at the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center, where the economic impacts of HB2 are set to be discussed.
Meanwhile, Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin and National Center for Transgender Equality Executive Director Mara Keisling have signed on to a letter to Mayor Roberts and the Charlotte City Council that also urges them not to compromise.
It reads, in part:
You must not waiver in your commitment, pin your hopes on a costly and long court battle, or undermine the very values you all fought protect. You are lawmakers. In passing the ordinance, you were doing your job. We urge you to stand firm, to not repeal Charlotte’s ordinance, and to resist putting what’s easy over what’s right. A deal that calls for a repeal of the ordinance would only tarnish the legacy of your city which you have worked so hard to strengthen. This moment in which we find ourselves is quickly defining the type of nation we are destined to be. Today, you are standing on the right side of history. As Councilmember Al Austin said the night you passed the ordinance, “Are we a city that panders to fear and hate to those who wish to perpetuate fear and injustice? I say to you, ‘Not on my watch.’” That was true then, and remains true now. We cannot ‘compromise’ on equality and the world is watching.
You can read the letter in full here.
Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer told qnotes that the organization plans on having members of the transgender student community that work in their office to write a letter to members of the council sharing their personal stories as to why the expanding non-discrimination ordinance is important to them. The letters will be delivered at Monday night’s meeting. Windmeyer said he will also encourage other organizations to ask their members to do the same.