The controversy surrounding House Bill 2 (HB2) sees developments every day. The anti-LGBTQ legislation, which mandates public restroom use by birth sex and nullifies local non-discrimination protections, has had massive pushback from advocates and allies. In the interest of keeping our readers informed, qnotes breaks down the avalanche of headlines and provides a brief but comprehensive breakdown of HB2 news.
N.C. House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson tweeted images of proposed legislation that could potentially repeal HB2 but leave key parts of it in place, as well as adding what’s being called a Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) provision. Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), who has been leading his party’s HB2 repeal negotiation, confirmed: “RFRA has been discussed, RFRA light, RFRA first cousin,” said McGrady, though emphasizing that the images Jackson posted were not McGrady’s work.
On the one-year anniversary of HB2 being signed into law, openly LGBTQ North Carolina lawmakers spoke about their personal views of the law. Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) said, “We don’t want anything special — we just want to be treated like anybody else…and HB2, unfortunately, has brought out the worst in North Carolina. It’s made us willing to be prejudiced against people we don’t even understand, it’s really brought out that prejudice.” Lesbian Rep. Deb Butler (D-Brunswick) remained hopeful: “I’m convinced that the majority of North Carolinians believe this is a generational issue whose time has passed. We are going to go in the right direction on it,” Butler said.
WRAL reported that a conversation with House Speaker Tim Moore revealed that Republican NCGA leaders have no intention of repealing the most controversial provisions of HB2 even if the law itself is compromised: “Moore pledged that the final product would still restrict the use of restrooms by transgender people and would still block local governments from passing any non-discrimination ordinances that go beyond federal law, meaning they wouldn’t include protections for the LGBT community,” wrote WRAL’s Mark Binker and Laura Leslie.
The NCAA issued a statement that unless HB2 were repealed by Thursday, March 30, North Carolina would be out of the running to host six years of championship games. The estimated economic cost of such a move may be hundreds of millions.
Washington Post writer Steven Petrow published an article saying that the lack of compromise on HB2 thus far is, in fact, a good thing; Petrow argues that “Basic human rights are not matters for a popular vote — that way lies the ‘tyranny of the majority’ that Founding Father John Adams warned against.” Petrow likens the idea of compromising on HB2 to other legislative compromises in American history, including the three-fifths compromise that counted five slaves as three people, for the purposes of representation in Congress.
The Associated Press published an exclusive analysis that found that HB2 will cost the North Carolina economy $3.76 billion dollars over 12 years. The analysis was compiled via interviews and public records requests, but is likely an underestimation due to some factors left out of the analysis because of a lack of definite numbers. Bank of American CEO Brian Moynihan told The News & Observer that some losses weren’t publicized or even known: “What’s going on that you don’t know about?” Moynihan asked. “What convention decided to take you off the list? What location for a distribution facility took you off the list? What corporate headquarters consideration for a foreign company — there’s a lot of them out there — just took you off the list because they just didn’t want to be bothered with the controversy? That’s what eats you up.”
N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest released a statement saying that “The recent economic forecast reported by the Associated Press has no basis in fact.” Advocates lashed back: “Instead of acknowledging the tremendous harm HB2 is doing to North Carolina’s economy, Dan Forest can only stick his head in the sand and pretend it isn’t happening,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action. “Dan Forest needs to stop planning his 2020 campaign for governor, and start doing what’s right for North Carolina.”
Faith in America co-founder and western-N.C. factory-owner Mitchell Gold released a statement calling for full, unmitigated repeal of HB2: “Nobody should have to live in fear that they can be legally fired for reasons that have nothing to do with their job performance,” Gold argued, then called for compassion for the vulnerable LGBTQ youth in the state. “Equal rights legislation says to these precious individuals that the state recognizes their worth. I know from personal experience such leadership saves lives.”
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) released their 10th annual Healthcare Equality Index, ranking 22 North Carolina hospitals as “Leaders in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality.” Tari Hanneman, Director of the Health Equality Project at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, said, “HB2 has stained North Carolina’s reputation, but it is heartening to know that these medical professionals put their patients over politics and continue to give LGBTQ people the best treatment in an affirming environment.”
Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore announced the introduction of HB 142, which would repeal HB2 but leave certain elements intact. HB 142 would prohibit local regulation of public bathrooms, leaving the issue of “privacy” up to state legislators. The bill would also prohibit local governments from passing non-discrimination regulations until Dec. 2020.
Gov. Roy Cooper pledged his support for HB 142 and met with Democratic legislators to urge them to vote for it.
The Human Rights Campaign, Equality NC, and the ACLU announce their opposition to the repeal bill. ACLU N.C. Policy Director Sarah Gillooly said, “it is shameful that legislative leaders and North Carolina’s governor are once again rushing through a discriminatory anti-LGBT measure without proper vetting or an opportunity for public input.”
Rev. Dr. William Barber II of the NAACP also came out opposed to the compromise bill. “It is shameful for Tim Moore and Phil Berger to demand a discriminatory compromise on a bill that should have never been passed in the first place,” Barber said. “Above all, any moratorium on civil rights is not a compromise, it is a contradiction with the principle of equal protection under the law and our moral values.”
HB 142 passed in the Senate and House of Representatives and was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper.
NCAA President Mark Emmert told reporters that he was pleased with the progress on repealing HB2, but that the NCAA Board of Governors will discuss whether the new legislation “is a sufficient change in the law for the board to feel comfortable going back to North Carolina.”
The Air Horn Orchestra protesters announced that they planned to stage a demonstration that evening outside the Governor’s Mansion once again, this time protesting HB 142. “We created the Air Horn Orchestra almost exactly a year ago to protest state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBT community,” said organizer Tina Haver Currin. “Unfortunately, it seems Gov. Cooper needs a loud reminder of what he was elected to do — fully repeal HB2, instead of supporting a watered-down ‘compromise’ which leaves much of HB2 in place.”