RALEIGH, N.C. — After months of standing strong against calls from the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) to rescind its non-discrimination ordinance, the Charlotte City Council did just that, in hopes of securing a full repeal of House Bill 2.
In the end, it was all for nothing, as the NCGA adjourned the special session they held on Dec. 21 without voting to repeal HB2.
On Dec. 19, the city council unexpectedly voted to rescind the ordinance, which had already been nullified by HB2. The motion passed unanimously in a 10-0 vote. The move came with the stipulation that if the state failed to repeal HB2 by Dec. 31 the ordinance would go back on the books.
Two days later, they met again to fully rescind the ordinance, after leaving in protections for employees of businesses that contract with the city. In addition to removing that provision, they removed the Dec. 31 deadline. This time the motion passed in a 7-2 vote, with LaWana Mayfield and Al Austin voting no.
House Bill 2, in addition to requiring transgender individuals to use the bathrooms and locker rooms matching the gender on their birth certificates in government owned buildings, nullified all non-discrimination ordinances passed by cities throughout the state. With HB2 repealed, those ordinances would go back into effect, as well as give Charlotte, in addition to other cities in the state, the opportunity to pass expanded ordinances like they did in February.
Charlotte City Council’s statement following the vote to repeal the ordinance stated that this was the intention going forward.
“The City of Charlotte is deeply dedicated to protecting the rights of all people from discrimination and, with House Bill 2 repealed, will be able to pursue that priority for our community,” it read.
Mayor Jennifer Roberts said the vote to repeal the ordinance “should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to non-discrimination.”
The Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina, which like the city council had long opposed such a compromise, quickly released statements urging the NCGA to repeal HB2.
“Governor-elect Cooper has briefed us on a deal he brokered with state lawmakers to reach a complete and total repeal of HB2,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin in a joint statement with Equality North Carolina. “HB2 is precisely why North Carolinians went to the polls and ousted Governor McCrory last month. It’s time to chart a new course guided by the state’s values of dignity and respect, not discrimination and hate — and to ensure non-discrimination protections exist in cities, towns and across the state of North Carolina.”
Even with the best of intentions, it is hard to see how transgender bathroom and locker room protections would have been a part of an expanded non-discrimination ordinance going forward, even if a repeal of HB2 had been achieved.
The Republicans maintain a super majority and would have the power to enact similar legislation to HB2 if Charlotte or other cities decided to pass an all-inclusive ordinance in 2017.
Durham City Councilmember Charlie Reece tweeted on Dec. 19 that he had reservations about Charlotte voting to rescind its ordinance, questioning if the city council had conferred with the transgender community before deciding to do so.
“I am deeply worried about the impression left by this ‘deal,’ that somehow the economic damage is more important than protecting Charlotte’s trans community,” he said.
Transgender activist Lara Americo noted that concern while speaking with qnotes on her way back from the General Assembly.
“I feel betrayed by the city council, and I feel let down again by the NCGA who were elected into office to protect the rights and livelihood of their citizens. But they constantly leave behind transgender people,” she said.
“Charlotte isn’t alone in that they tend to make decisions about transgender people without hearing the voices of transgender people, and this shouldn’t be the case at all,” she added.
Those thoughts were mirrored by Ashley Williams, an organizer with Charlotte Uprising and the Trans and Queer People of Color Collective (TQPoCC).
“I’m not shocked or really surprised in a way that I’ve heard white trans people or white gay people talk about how they are shocked about the things that have happened since Monday,” Williams said, saying the work they have been doing even outside of the ordinance and HB2 prepared them for such actions. She called Mayor Roberts “out of touch” and suggested that “the white gay establishment” as well as the rest of Charlotte City Council, might now rethink supporting her. (Roberts is running for re-election in November.)
Williams also said they are upset with Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign, for “making suggestions [to politicians] that really weren’t going to benefit people who the ordinance was meant to benefit in the first place, which was trans folks.”
Councilmember Reece continued his Twitter statement on Dec. 19 by calling for support of the transgender community. Some have latched onto the remarks as part of what helped foster distrust, along with the fact that it took two goes to get the ordinance fully rescinded with no strings attached. He has called this conclusion unfounded, saying he doesn’t have the power to “put the kibosh on HB2.”
“Assuming that HB2 is repealed tomorrow,” he continued, “and assuming that the repeal leaves NC law where it was before HB2, cities and towns across NC will be able to take actions currently prohibited by HB2 to prevent discrimination within their jurisdictions — including Durham. Whatever Charlotte has done, and whatever the N.C. General Assembly does this week, Durham stands with our trans brothers and sisters and will stand against discrimination and bigotry in all forms.”
No repeal of HB2
Senate Republicans put a repeal bill in place which included a six-month moratorium on new ordinances. This then ballooned to the end of the 2017 legislative session, because, as Sen. Phil Berger explained on the floor of the Senate, some Republicans were worried six months wouldn’t provide enough time to allow them to come up with a more “long term” solution.
Sen. Buck Newton said the moratorium was necessary because Charlotte couldn’t be trusted, and the “lunatic left of the city of Charlotte” might otherwise consider enacting an ordinance similar to the one passed in February.
Even that proved insufficient to get a repeal vote, as Democrats, outraged at the inclusion of a temporary ban on ordinances, refused to back it and some Republicans, who want to see HB2 remain in spite of the boycotts, refused to do so as well.
“We got snookered and stymied,” transgender activist Janice Covington Allison said. “We got used like yesterday’s garbage. The only thing Republicans got accomplished was to make themselves look like a bunch of fools. The only thing city council made themselves look like is a bunch of amateurs.”
Allison added that she considers “Jennifer Roberts and a few of the other councilmembers as people with good hearts, and people with good hearts get taken advantage of.”
Paige Dula, founder of Genderlines, took to Facebook to ask elected officials and other local leaders to come to one of the transgender support group’s upcoming meetings for a talking session to help bridge the gap between the community and those in decision-making roles and positions of power.
Their next two meetings are scheduled for Jan. 7 and Jan. 17.
At the time of writing, Dula said that no elected officials had said they would attend but “all the reps from the major LGBT orgs have checked in.”
Meanwhile, the boycotts over HB2, which have already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs, will continue.
The NBA and NCAA announced their boycotts will continue. The NCAA has moved championship games out of the state and the 2017 NBA All-Star Game was moved to New Orleans.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, has said he will ask the national NAACP to call for a boycott of the state. The NAACP boycott would be similar to one held against South Carolina over the Confederate flag flying at the statehouse, which lasted 15 years and cost the state millions of dollars.
Gov.-elect Roy Cooper is against the boycott.
He has been repeating that this was “our best chance [to repeal HB2], but it cannot be our last chance.”
Yet, how things move forward now is yet to be determined.