North Carolina Pinky Promises To End HB2 As Long As Charlotte Stops Shielding LGBTQ People From Discrimination

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The Charlotte city council unanimously voted to rescind the non-discrimination ordinance that protects trans people and their right to use the public facilities that match their gender. In an apparent deal, the city council voted to repeal the ordinance and in exchange the state’s Republican-led General Assembly will hold a special session on Tuesday to repeal HB2 entirely. Remember the last time the General Assembly held a surprise special session? Nothing went as planned, so who knows if they’ll honor their word. Just in case they don’t, the Charlotte city council added a clause that the non-discrimination ordinance would be enacted again if HB2 isn’t repealed by Dec. 31.

Governor-elect Roy Cooper was the one to encourage council members to rescind the ordinance. According to The Charlotte Observer, Cooper personally called council member Julie Eiselt on Sunday night. She says he told her, “If we cleaned up our books that the General Assembly was motivated to call a special session to repeal (the law) and we felt this was our best opportunity.”

“Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte’s vote, a special session will be called for Tuesday to repeal HB2 in full,” Cooper said in a statement shortly after the 10-0 decision. “I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full. Full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state.”

Earlier this year, HB2 was created in retaliation of the non-discrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte city council that expanded legal protections for LGBT people, including trans people’s right to use the bathroom that matches their gender. HB2 was quickly passed and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory; it nullified Charlotte’s ordinance and other local nondiscrimination ordinances. The city lost millions of dollars in business as musicians and the NCAA cancelled concerts and special events in the state in protest.

Back in May, the city council rejected a similar deal and voted against repealing the ordinance. Mayor Jennifer Roberts defended the council’s decision on Monday and said the vote “should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to non-discrimination.”

Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore said they’ve been advocating for the repeal of Charlotte’s bathroom ordinance which “created the problem” in the first place, acting as if they’ve been waiting to repeal HB2 all along. Governor Pat McCrory’s spokeperson also said he advocated for the repeal of the “overeaching ordinance” and added: “This sudden reversal, with little notice after the gubernatorial election, sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state.” McCrory conceded just this month after a contested election during which he incorrectly claimed that voter fraud led to his defeat.

HB2 nullified Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance and now, I guess for Republicans, repealing the city’s nondiscrimination clause clears the way for the repeal of the state’s discriminatory law. Hopefully it sets a path for LGBT legal protections. As Vox points out, though, it might not be as easy to gain full protections for all LGBT people without having to battle the “bathroom issue” again, since Republicans have zeroed in on trans people.

The upshot seems to be that cities and counties in North Carolina will now be able to pass and enforce LGBTQ protections — which don’t exist under state law — as long as they avoid the bathroom issue. They should be able to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, education, and public accommodations, but only to some extent.

If cities and counties try to get into the bathroom issue again, they could spark yet another retaliatory law, like HB2, from the state legislature. (Still, the incoming governor, Roy Cooper, actively campaigned against HB2 and would likely veto such a measure. Republicans have a veto-proof majority for now, but it’s unclear if enough of them would be willing to restart the same battle over LGBTQ rights after going through nine months of controversy with HB2.)

Let’s hope HB2 will be demolished by the end of this year and let it be a reminder to continue to fight for liberation of all LGBTQ people.

Yvonne S. Marquez is a lesbian journalist and former Autostraddle senior editor living in Dallas, TX. She writes about social justice, politics, activism and other things dear to her queer Latina heart. Yvonne was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter. Read more of her work at yvonnesmarquez.com.

Yvonne has written 205 articles for us.

10 Comments

  1. I’m kind of astounded by this news. I mean, it’s good that HB2 is finally (hopefully?) being scrapped, but this is giving the North Carolina Republicans what they wanted in the first place. It’s as if the NC Republicans are saying: “Charlotte, we didn’t like what you did so here’s this horrible, retaliatory law (HB2). Turns out there were a lot of unintended (financial) consequences, so we’re willing to backpedal as long as you do what we wanted all along.”

    The demise of HB2 *sounds* like a victory, but NC is really just back where it started. Except, of course, that new anti-discrimination ordinances are less likely to include public accommodation protections for trans people. The Republican Legislature has all the power here.

    I wonder how many other anti-discrimination ordinances across the country are going to back down from full transgender protections out of fear of something like HB2? It’s not exactly surprising that our rights are once again hotbutton bargaining chips.

    I also say all this as someone who doesn’t actually live in North Carolina, so I’m curious to hear from NC residents on this matter – especially trans people. Hopefully this development will have some good outcomes in your day-to-day lives, even if it does complicate things moving forward.

  2. So, my initial reaction to this news was:

    But I’m increasingly becoming resigned to this…

    All day, I kept wondering what changed the minds of Democratic officials in Charlotte and at the legislature…I mean, they were offered this same deal months ago and rebuffed those offers.

    But then I remembered, this.

    UGH.

    The one thing that Charlotte had going for it, that they won’t have in about a month, is a Democratic Attorney General backing them up.

    So this might be the best of the worst possible outcomes.

    That said, I don’t know why this special session can’t wait until Cooper’s inaugurated on Jan. 1. It feels like Lucy’s getting ready to pull the football out from Charlie Brown’s grasp…I don’t know why Democrats keep falling for it.

  3. We need to pay close attention to this one because if they don’t repeal the entire thing (and I’m gonna go ahead and say that they won’t), this is will pay the way for the state to completely override municipal legislative authority, thereby consolidating power and further eroding any semblance of a democracy in North Carolina.

    Also, I’d like to remind people that because of the super-majority, the Democrats have no power. The special sessions have been sprung on them with no warning and they will probably continue to hold special sessions so long as they are required to redraw the map.

    The Republicans in NC have been cheating for years. They don’t listen to protesters or else Moral Mondays would have done something. I really don’t know what can be done to change things short of flooding state legislators offices with phone calls and I would be shocked if that isn’t happening already.

    By the way for anyone in NC, you can go here to look up your state rep: http://www.ncleg.net Please do it

    For anyone else, Phil Berger’s phone number at his local office is (336) 623-5210
    Tim Moore’s phone number at this local office is 704-739-1221

    Call them. Tell them the nation is watching

  4. Good article1 A couple of small correction: There is no such thing as “LGBTQ people” and neither the Charlotte ordinance or HB2 makes any reference to “queers” or Q people. Good job otherwise, Yvonne!

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