March 30 (UPI) — Both houses of the North Carolina General Assembly on Thursday voted to repeal House Bill 2 — the controversial measure addressing transgender public restroom use — as part of a compromise package between progressive and conservative lawmakers.
Under the deal, House Bill 142, the embattled legislation will go away in exchange for the loosening of state anti-discrimination ordinances that led Republicans to craft the bill in the first place.
There are three main parts of Thursday’s compromise — repealing HB2, giving the state authority over regulation of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities to the state, and imposing a moratorium on local municipalities passing related ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.
The repeal was approved by a vote of 70-48 in the House and 32-16 in the Senate.
“This is a significant compromise from all sides on an issue that has been discussed and discussed and discussed in North Carolina for a long period of time,” Senate leader Phil Berger told the Senate Rules Committee Thursday. “It is something that I think satisfies some people, dissatisfies some people, but it’s a good thing for North Carolina.”
HB2 legally required all transgender students and state employees in North Carolina to use public restrooms for their birth sex. Opponents viewed the measure as discriminatory and it led to wide-scale condemnation and severe economic ramifications for the state — including the NBA moving this year’s all-star game from Charlotte and the National Collegiate Athletics Association stripping hosting duties from the city of Greensboro for this year’s men’s basketball tournament.
“I think this will address issues of who we are, how inclusive we are and whether everyone is valued,” Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue said.
Since its passage in March 2016, the law drew substantial criticism — as well as a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice — and has come close to repeal on a few occasions. It was expected to be written off the books in December, under the guidance of new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but that repeal effort failed at the last minute.
North Carolina House Bill 142, passed by the state’s general assembly on Thursday, initiates the repeal of controversial House Bill 2 — which required transgender public employees and students to use restrooms that match their birth sex, not their gender identity. Image courtesy North Carolina General Assembly
For the better part of a year, HB2 represented an effective political standoff between the state government and the city of Charlotte. In February 2016, the city passed Charlotte Ordinance 7056, which barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in “public accommodations.” Republican leaders, viewing the law was an overreach in granting transgender freedoms, created HB2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, to block it.
In December, Charlotte abruptly scrapped its ordinance and outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory called for a special legislative session to follow suit with HB2. That session did nothing, largely out of Democrats’ concern for a GOP provision for a six-month ban on cities passing related ordinances. In other words, Republicans wanted assurances that Charlotte wouldn’t simply revive its law once HB2 was discarded — a concern that’s behind the 2020 moratorium outlined in Thursday’s agreement.
“It is something that I think satisfies some people, dissatisfies some people, but it’s a good thing for North Carolina,” Berger said.
The measure was sent on to Cooper for his signature. It wasn’t completely certain, though, whether he will sign it — but he said Wednesday night that he supported the compromise.
However, there were a number of opponents to Thursday’s deal — mostly progressives unhappy with making what they consider a watered-down and ineffectual deal involving the civil rights of the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
“This is not a repeal of HB2. Instead, they’re reinforcing the worst aspects of the law,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, replied. “North Carolina lawmakers should be ashamed of this backroom deal that continues to play politics with the lives of LGBT North Carolinians.”