North Carolina Governor Proposes Compromise for Repeal of HB2 Bathroom Bill

Bathroom SignBacklash against North Carolina’s transgender bathroom bill has resulted in steep social and economic consequences for the state, leaving political officials scrambling for a graceful response to the crisis. With public support for the bill waning, the state’s Republican governor has hinted at a potential compromise which will potentially repeal the unpopular HB2 if the City of Charlotte repeals a local ordinance designed to expand LGBT anti-discrimination protections. The mayor of Charlotte has seemingly refused the offer by telling the press that state officials must deal with, and work to solve, the problems they caused when passing the law.

Consequences Mount for North Carolina over HB2

North Carolina’s controversial HB2, also known as the “Bathroom Bill,” has had a series of financial consequences to communities and businesses across the state as high profile organizations have cancelled events or planned expansions in protest of the law’s discriminatory effect. Although the law is not even one year old, costs of its implantation have piled on, creating a stressful situation for supporters of the bill in the state legislature and the governor’s office. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on legal fees for a lawsuit against the federal government — which has recently been dropped by Governor Pat McCrory — the state has lost millions on a handful of cancelled events, including:

  • The NBA All-Star Game planned for Charlotte has been moved to New Orleans
  • Bruce Springsteen cancelled a planned show
  • The NCAA and ACC both pulled high profile college championship events planned in Charlotte and other North Carolina communities
  • PayPal and another unnamed company withdrew plans for expansion into the state
  • Several Silicon Valley tech companies signed a brief condemning HB2, all but killing the state’s chances of winning bids for new locations

Although the exact value of the damage is difficult to calculate, financial experts have estimated the cost of the lost revenue to come close to $400 million. Compounding difficulty for the law’s supporters is the high profile nature of the entertainment and sporting events which have been withdrawn, leading Republican lawmakers to consider alternatives to continued enforcement of HB2. 

Earlier this week, Governor McCrory suggest that he could work to repeal the unpopular legislation, providing the City of Charlotte compromised on the local ordinance which prompted the law’s passage.

North Carolina Governor Suggests Possible Repeal of HB2

In response to increased pressure from North Carolina business associations, Gov. McCrory seemed to make an effort to compromise on HB2 by suggesting he could call a legislative session as soon as next week to consider repealing the bill if Charlotte considered repealing the ordinance which led to HB2. 

Issuing a statement through a spokesman, Gov. McCrory’s office said, “For the last nine months, the governor has consistently said state legislation is only needed if the Charlotte ordinance remains in place. If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers … the governor will call a special session. It is the governor’s understanding that legislative leaders ... agree with that assessment.”

Late last year, Charlotte passed a local law that not only allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom associated with the gender they identified with, but, arguably more importantly, expanded the protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation by hotels, retailers, and other local businesses. Although HB2 has gained notoriety for striking down the bathroom choice provision of Charlotte’s ordinance, it also prevented any city or municipality in North Carolina from expanding anti-discrimination protections to the LGBT community. According to the Governor’s office, HB2 is not necessary if Charlotte withdraws its support for LGBT rights, however, city officials have expressed reluctance to acquiesce.

Charlotte Mayor Rejects Compromise on HB2

During a press conference called to respond to Governor McCrory’s offer of compromise on HB2, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts complimented the Governor for recognizing the need to repeal the law, but argued that state officials could act without Charlotte’s cooperation. Speaking to reporters, Mayor Roberts said, “We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community.” Mayor Roberts’ resistance to the compromise was welcomed by opponents of HB2 who approve an expansion of LGBT rights, however, opponents argued the mayor’s stance is nothing more than political posturing for the upcoming election.

Republican lawmakers accused Roberts of scuttling a compromise on HB2 in order to keep the unpopular law on the books as a talking point for the next gubernatorial campaign. According to recent polls, HB2 has a nearly 50% disapproval rating among North Carolina voters, and Roberts, who is a Democrat, could benefit politically if the law is not repealed before the next gubernatorial election.  While North Carolina politicians continue to debate the motivations for Roberts’ resistance to a proposed compromise regarding HB2, the fate of the bill seems to shift back to Republican state legislators whose support of the bill has been strongly tested in recent weeks.

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