Deal to repeal ‘bathroom bill’ angers GOP in North Carolina
North Carolina Republicans have a deal for the city of Charlotte: We’ll pull our bathroom law if you pull yours.
Lawmakers are prepared to repeal HB2, the legislation regulating intimate public facilities on the basis of biological sex, after the Charlotte City Council on Monday got rid of its ordinance requiring that access to restrooms and locker rooms be determined based on a person’s gender identity.
“The City Council has taken care of their side of the equation, and we need to take care of ours,” Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte told The Charlotte Observer.
The general assembly will hold another special session Wednesday to consider scrapping the law, which prompted a backlash from gay and transgender activists and their corporate allies including PayPal and the National Basketball Association, both of which curtailed business activities in the state in response to the law.
But the anticipated deal is leaving some conservatives, who worked to re-elect
Republican supermajorities in both chambers, feeling betrayed by their representatives.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, said there will be nothing to stop cities like Charlotte from permitting opposite-sex restroom and locker room access if HB2 is repealed.
“I don’t understand why Republicans would fall for such a ploy,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “I think it’s a disgrace and, frankly, a betrayal of the Republican voters who just re-elected that supermajority back to the general assembly in North Carolina.”
The attempted compromise stems form a promise outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory and leading Republican lawmakers made several months ago to consider repealing HB2 if the Charlotte City Council got rid of the ordinance that prompted the state law in the first place — a deal that was rejected at the time.
Mr. McCrory, who lost the gubernatorial race to Attorney General Roy Cooper by about 10,000 votes, said Charlotte’s sudden about-face reveals the political nature of the controversy over HB2.
“This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election has ended sadly proves this entire issue, originated by the political left, was all about politics, at the expense of Charlotte and the entire state of North Carolina,” Mr. McCrory said in a video message. “But as I promised months ago, if the Charlotte ordinance was repealed, I would call our General Assembly into a special session to reconsider existing state legislation passed earlier this year.”
The LGBT movement has not wavered from its commitment to enacting local anti-discrimination measures after HB2 is repealed.
“HB2 is precisely why North Carolinians went to the polls and ousted Governor McCrory last month,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “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.”
The Charlotte City Council reaffirmed its commitment to transgender rights after repealing the ordinance.
“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,” the council said in a statement Monday.
Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said Republicans would be naive to assume similar ordinances will not be passed if HB2 is repealed.
“I think this is very foolhardy by the legislature, because I think there’s about a 100 percent chance that another municipality is going to do exactly what Charlotte has done, and then the state legislature is going to have to again reconsider this issue,” Mr. Backholm said. “There’s no chance that the left stands pat on this.”
Republicans hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers, enough to override a veto and re-enact HB2 if Charlotte reneges on the compromise. But Ms. Fitzgerald said some Republicans are weary of picking another fight with the LGBT movement and its powerful corporate allies.
“There have already been several Republicans who have capitulated on House Bill 2 because they were in tough re-election battles,” Ms. Fitzgerald said. “The question is whether all of the Republicans would vote to override that veto.”
Although the LGBT movement has painted Mr. McCrory’s defeat as a referendum on HB2, Ms. Fitzgerald said, Republicans should not capitulate to progressives in the transgender bathroom debate. In fact, she said, the governor’s popularity reached its zenith only after he stood up for HB2 this year.
“He always had a negative popularity rating going three years back until the summer of this year, when conservative voters suddenly realized that he was standing strong,” she said. “And that’s the first time his popularity rating was in the positive column.”
Mr. Backholm said Republicans in North Carolina should take a cue from President-elect Donald Trump.
“I think it’ll be disappointing if a Republican legislature ends up repealing it, because they’re just going to prove that if the bullies get their way if they scream loud enough and lie loud enough,” he said.
“Especially in an electoral year like 2016, I think the public is hungry for some courage, even if it’s brash. I think that’s what you saw at the national level. They’re hungry for some people who aren’t politicians as usual, and all of this seems to be is an indication that North Carolina is operating as politicians always have,” he said.
LOCKED OUT: Supporters of HB2 are feeling betrayed by North Carolina Republicans who are prepared to repeal the “bathroom bill.”