The road to the failed repeal of HB2
RALEIGH, N.C. (WLOS) —
It appears the U.S. Supreme Court will be the ultimate decider on whether North Carolina's controversial House Bill 2, also known as the "bathroom bill," stays or goes.
A bi-partisan plan to repeal HB2 fell apart on Wednesday, with Republicans and Democrats placing blame on each other.
The special session by the North Carolina General Assembly was called solely repeal the legislation. But to understand what went wrong, one must also understand how it all started.
In February 2016, the Charlotte City Council passed a non-discrimination ordinance that included prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The ordinance was supposed to take effect on April 1. It would have allowed transgendered men and women to use the public facilities of the sex they identify with.
One month later in March during a special session, the state House and Senate passed HB2 in response to Charlotte's new ordinance, which was signed later that night by Gov. Pat McCrory. In less than 12 hours, one of the most controversial and divisive pieces of legislation in North Carolina became law.
In essence, HB2 requires transgendered men and women to use the bathrooms and changing rooms that match the sex on their birth certificates in public schools and government buildings. It also prevents local governments from creating anti-discrimination policies.
Supporters say it is a common sense policy that protects women and children from sexual predators. Opponents say HB2 discriminates against the LGBTQ community.
In May, it led to dueling lawsuits between North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice. Gov. Mccrory asked a federal judge to clarify anti-discrimination law based on sex. The U.S. Justice Department in turn sued North Carolina.
The state has also lost millions of dollars in revenue and hundreds of jobs directly because of the law. The NCAA pulled seven championship events from the state. PayPal chose to not expand in Charlotte, costing the city 400 jobs. The Charlotte Chamber claimed overall it lost 1000+ jobs. Asheville alone lost an estimated $1.5 million when a conference was canceled. Entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr also canceled plans to play in North Carolina.
Fast forward to the present.
For months, state Republicans said they would consider repealing HB2, if Charlotte first repealed its anti-discrimination ordinance. Gov. McCrory called the special session after the Charlotte City did so this week. However, it did not happen entirely to the satisfaction of the GOP.
On Monday, according to our ABC-affiliate in Charlotte, WSOC, the council threw out parts of the ordinance. But on Wednesday, House Republicans became concerned that the city did not repeal its entire ordinance. WSOC reports that the Charlotte City Council held an emergency meeting that morning to address the GOP's concerns. The council voted to scrap the current ordinance, only using the underlying ordinance which dates back to 1968. It still protects against discrimination based on race, religion and gender, but protections no longer exist for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Later on Wednesday the special session convened in Raleigh. Senate leader Phil Berger, the primary sponsor of the HB2 repeal legislation, added something extra to it--a ban on local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances for six months. Berger referred to it as a "cooling off" period.
But the "cooling off" addition to the bill was enough to enrage Democrats. All of them and a handful of Republicans voted against the legislation, killing the repeal of HB2. The House never even got a chance to vote or debate on similar legislation.
Related article| Senate, gay rights leaders lament NC special session
Now, Republicans and Democrats are locked in a blame-game battle.
Sen. Berger says Governor-elect Roy Cooper and Charlotte's mayor acted in "bad faith" by passing a partial repeal of Charlotte's ordinance in a closed-door meeting.
In a release, Sen. Berger's office stated in part:
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Roy Cooper operated in bad faith by passing a secret, partial repeal in a closed-door meeting, and tried to claim credit for compromising on the same ‘deal’ they killed multiple times for their own political gain during campaign season. But Senate Republicans kept their end of the deal anyway and voted to fully repeal HB2.
Sen. Berger also accused Cooper of calling Democrats and urging them to not vote for the repeal, which Democrats say did not happen.
Cooper fired back, saying Republicans broke their promise to the people of North Carolina by adding the ban on local anti-discrimination ordinances to the repeal bill.
"What they've been saying all along is that they wanted Charlotte to repeal its ordinance first. That's what they've said, that's what they've said in public, that's what they've said to me," Cooper said during a news conference. "I looked them in the eye. That's what they said, but what I believe happened is their caucus buckled on them and they didn't have the guts to put the bill out on the floor by itself for a vote. It doubles down on discrimination for an indefinite period of time. So, what we've got do is somehow start again. We have to. We have to fix this."
The NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes is now calling for Cooper to pay for the costs of the special session.
Gov. McCrory also released a statement, blaming the "left" for sabotaging "bipartisan good faith agreements."
As promised, I called a Special Session to reconsider a manufactured political issue that strategically targeted the city of Charlotte and our state by well-funded left-wing interest groups. This was at least the third time that pressure from the left sabotaged bipartisan good faith agreements for political purposes.
As I've stated multiple times, the balance between privacy and equality is not just a North Carolina issue, it is a national issue that will be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future.
North Carolina will continue to be one of the nation's leaders in job growth, education, quality of life and equality for all of our (sic)citzens.
So where does this leave North Carolina and HB2? Its future could rest solely on a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, as Gov. McCrory suggests in his statement.
Another option that could potentially bring about the repeal of HB2 involves the state's redistricting maps. A federal court found some of the House and Senate districts were unconstitutional because of gerrymandering.
Related article| What's the future of HB2 under Governor-elect Roy Cooper?
Related article| North Carolina ordered to redraw districts, hold new elections
The court has given the General Assembly until March 15 to create new and more fair lines in 28 districts. That in turn could impact many candidates. As it stands, Cooper does not have the legislative backing to repeal HB2, unless significant changes happen when the new district maps are redrawn.