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Ax falls on HB 2

RALEIGH – After several failed efforts, a bi-partisan majority of NC House and Senate members have approved legislation that repeals, in large part, the controversial House Bill 2 (aka the “Bathroom Bill”).

After the votes were cast Thursday in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly, Governor Roy Cooper quickly signed House Bill 142, which represented a compromise between state Democrats and Republicans.

Each of the three legislators representing the Roanoke-Chowan area in the NC General Assembly – Rep. Michael Wray of Gaston, Rep. Howard Hunter III of Ahoskie, and Senator Erica Smith-Ingram of Gaston – voted in favor of House Bill 142.

“I agree with the Governor that this new legislation isn’t perfect, but it does take us back to where we were before Charlotte (City Council) started this whole mess by overstepping their bounds and passing their ordinance,” said Rep. Hunter on Friday.

“It (HB 142) still protects the privacy rights of women and children in restrooms and locker rooms,” Hunter added. “That was the selling point for me on this new law. I also like the part of the new law that removes restrictions for person’s right to recover in state court when they are fired for their race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, and religion.”

Hunter also acknowledged the loss of businesses coming to North Carolina because of HB 2.

“This new legislation puts North Carolina back on the map for many businesses and job creators who refused to consider us because of HB 2,” he stated.

Thursday’s votes (70-48 approval in the House; and 32-16 in the Senate) were ironically cast extremely close to a deadline set by the NCAA who is making its final decisions this week on which cities will host regional and national collegiate athletic tournaments from 2018-2022.

Last year, the NCAA moved several tournaments scheduled to occur in North Carolina to other states. At that time, NCAA officials announced that it would not schedule tournaments in North Carolina as long as House Bill 2 remained as law.

“The NCAA had backed our state into a corner; they have no business dictating to us what’s good or not for North Carolina,” stressed Rep. Hunter.

The repeal also came on the heels of an analysis conducted by the Associated Press that alleges the state stands to lose $3.76 billion in economic revenue over the next 12 years because of House Bill 2. The AP was quoted as saying that loss revenue was linked to canceled events in the state by well-known entertainers, the moving of corporate conventions to other states, decisions made by business and industry to scuttle plans to locate or expand in North Carolina, and the financial impact of losing NCAA sanctioned events.

House Bill 2, passed just over a year ago, requires transgender people to use public bathrooms in schools and other government buildings that match their birth gender and excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections.

Now with House Bill 142 standing as the law, the measure still rings with proponents and opponents.

Senator Phil Berger, President Pro Tempore of the NC Senate said the new legislation still protects bathroom safety and privacy.

“Compromise is difficult for both sides, but we are pleased this proposal fully protects safety and privacy by keeping men out of women’s bathrooms, and removes the distraction of HB 2 from North Carolina’s success story of outpacing the rest of the United States in job growth and being a national leader in tax cuts and reform,” Berger said in a press release.

Basically, House Bill 142 repeals House Bill 2; protects privacy in bathrooms and shower facilities by leaving regulation of multi-occupancy facilities to the state, returning to the status quo prior to passage of Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance; and implements a temporary moratorium on local county and city ordinances similar to Charlotte’s until December 1, 2020 to allow federal litigation to play out concerning transgender rights.

“This measure strengthens privacy protections statewide by providing a complete preemption of local governments regulating bathrooms, changing rooms and showers so that women and children are protected across the state,” said House Speaker Tim Moore.

Meanwhile, Gov. Cooper, who had several other plans to repeal HB 2 shot down by the Republican-led General Assembly, favored HB 142.

“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise. It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” the Governor said. “This law I’m signing is not just about North Carolina’s reputation – or jobs and sports. It’s about working to end discrimination. Under HB 2, North Carolina had zero LGBT protections. Today’s law not only provides for LGBT protections, but opens the door for more.”

Support also came from the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce, as stated in a press release from Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the nonpartisan business advocacy organization

“The North Carolina Chamber thanks House and Senate leadership and the Governor for coming together to find a solution on a bipartisan basis, we now look forward to returning the focus to issues that will continue to secure North Carolina’s future as a competitive leader for jobs and the economy,” Ebert said.

House Bill 142 had its detractors as well, to include Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.

“If HB2 was right to begin with, which I believe it was, then why are we repealing it,” questioned Forest. “If it is wrong, then why wait four years to fix it? Such ambiguity undercuts the legitimacy of a law that we have fought so hard to defend. We are yielding the moral high ground and giving in to a new form of corporate extortion from an unaccountable, out of state, non-elected, tax-exempt organization (NCAA) and for what?… a ballgame? Why are we allowing them to dictate to us, laws that govern the protection of our people? We should have the backbone to tell them to take a hike.”

“We see it as a fake repeal of HB 2 because, actually, it does nothing to eliminate the harm to transgender people,” Simone Bell, southern regional director for Lambda Legal, said in an interview with Stephanie Carson of the North Carolina News Service. “In fact, it allows the harm to maintain in the law.”

Bell was referring to a compromise in the bill that creates a three-year ban for cities and counties, prohibiting them from passing their own laws offering further protections to the LGBTQ community. Bell said the three-year ban on extending additional protections to people who are transgender in some ways is more harmful than the initial law.

“This particular bill does not expire until 2020, so that is the first time that people can begin to pass bills again,” she said. “So, it actually puts a moratorium on seeking those particular rights.”

Chris Sgro, Executive Director of Equality NC, also voiced disappointment over the new legislation, saying that HB 142 is “not a solution, it’s a continuation of HB 2.”

“Similar to HB 2, LGBTQ stakeholders were not included in the discussions that led to this bad compromise. We cannot talk about protecting the LGBTQ community with no LGBTQ people at the table,” Sgro said.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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