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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the Charlotte city council added a clause that the non-discrimination ordinance would be enacted again if HB2 isn’t repealed by Dec. 31.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 “I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full.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.