North Carolina Republicans, faced with billions of dollars in boycotts over the state's awful, bigoted "bathroom bill", have cracked...sort of. They have repealed the law in exchange for a moratorium on anti-discrimination ordinances by cities and counties until 2022.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed the measure into law a few hours after the General Assembly approved it, coming up against a Thursday deadline that threatened to bar the state from hosting championship sports events through 2022.
The result is a compromise as controversial as HB2 itself, dividing politicians and advocates over whether they can support it or not. The final version of the bill wasn’t completed until late Wednesday, following days of intense behind-the-scenes negotiations over dozens of proposals.
“In a perfect world, with a good General Assembly, we would have repealed House Bill 2 fully today and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians,” Cooper said at a news conference. “Unfortunately our supermajority Republican legislature will not pass these protections. But this is an important goal that I will keep fighting for.”
The Democratic governor negotiated the compromise with the Republican leaders of the legislature, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger.
“It was a very measured approach,” Moore told reporters after the legislation was passed. “I think this bill, as written, is also something that is very defensible in court. I think it’s something the public supports. No one is 100 percent happy, but I would say I’m 95 percent happy.”
Whether the repeal and other provisions in the new law will be sufficient to put the state back in contention to host NCAA sports championships remains to be seen. Moore told reporters after the session that business leaders who have been intermediaries in recent negotiations have told him this version of the bill would satisfy NCAA concerns.
NCAA president Mark Emmert said the NCAA’s “Board of Governors will determine whether this is a sufficient change in the law to return.”
“Over the next several days I hope we’ll have something to announce,” Emmert said Thursday at a news conference. “I’m personally very pleased we have a bill to debate and discuss.”
Emmert acknowledged the NCAA’s four specific objections to HB2 were not entirely addressed: “They repealed some of those areas but not all of them. The question the board is debating will be is repealing two or three enough?”
Faced with a GOP super-majority in both the state House and Senate, Cooper really didn't have much of a choice. The bill removes the state's bigotry, but also stops new local protections for LGBTQ folks in NC for another nearly 5 years, meaning it's still 100% legal to fire someone, deny them housing, or to deny them goods and services in the state over sexual orientation. In other words, the state is back to where it was before HB2 was passed, and that wasn't exactly a good place from an equality standpoint either.
My home state still has a long, long way to go, but it at least gets rid of the codified bigotry. But it goes back to bigotry by neglect as the default. This is about more than bathrooms, in the state that 50 years ago proved it was more about lunch counters.
Do better, people of NC.