North Carolina Lawmakers Ready to Repeal House Bill 2

(CN) – North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday called for a special session of the state legislature to consider the repeal of the controversial House Bill 2, following a surprise move by the Charlotte City Council to rescind the anti-discrimination law that inspired the house bill.

House Bill 2, also known as the “bathroom bill,” was rushed through the state legislature promptly signed into law by McCrory last spring.

It was a response to the Charlotte City Council expanding anti-discrimination protections for members of the LGBT community.

House Bill 2 rescinded those protections and included a provision that said transgender individuals must use public restrooms that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificate.

The state’s adoption of the measure prompted boycotts by national corporations, entertainers, and sports leagues, and cost the state millions in lost jobs.

The governor’s statement on the special session was one of a series of rapidly unfolding events Monday morning and came just days after Republican lawmakers controversially voted to strip incoming Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, of powers the state’s chief executive has enjoyed for decades.

Monday began with the Charlotte City Council voting 10-0 to rescind its expanded anti-discrimination protections during a breakfast meeting billed as a session to discuss its legislative agenda for the year ahead.

There was no advance notice that the ordinance would be discussed. Local television station WBTV broke the news of the surprise vote as it happened.

Immediately thereafter, Cooper, who is currently the state’s attorney general, released a statement on his Facebook page saying that he’d been assured a special session would be called on Tuesday to overturn the controversial state law.

In fact, it was called for Wednesday.

“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 HB 2 in full,” Cooper’s statement said. “I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full.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,” Cooper said.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the city council had been offered a similar deal in May but rejected it.

After the council’s vote on Monday, she said the city’s decision “should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to non-discrimination,” WBTV reported.

The city’s repeal includes that language that says its nondiscrimination ordinance will be enacted again if the General Assembly doesn’t repeal House Bill 2 by Dec. 31, something that was fought by Republican council member Ed Driggs, who said the wording suggested the city was dictating to the state legislature.

Another GOP council member, Kenny Smith, accused his Democratic colleagues of playing politics with repeal, noting that the deal had been on the table since May.

He criticized the Democrats in the majority on the city council of holding out until McCrory, an outspoken defender of House Bill 2 lost his re-election bid.

That sentiment was echoed by Graham Wilson, McCrory’s press secretary, who said in a statement, “Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists.”

“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. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session,” Wilson said.

The American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, two organizations that had been challenging House Bill 2 in federal court, issued a joint statement in which they described the law as an unprecedented attack of the LGBT community, and transgender people in particular.

“It is imperative that the General Assembly hold up their end of the deal and repeal H.B. 2 in full without delay,” said  Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “This will be an important step for North Carolinians to move forward, but it never should have come at the cost of protections for LGBT people living in Charlotte.”

Simone Bell, the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal, criticized the gamesmanship that GOP lawmakers insisted on playing before they agreed to repeal the law.

“LGBT rights aren’t a bargaining chip,” Bell said. “Charlotte shouldn’t have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for H.B. 2 to be repealed.  LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination. The right action is for the North Carolina legislature to pass a statewide comprehensive civil rights bill that includes full protections for LGBT people.”