Monday night, the Charlotte City Council is expected to consider acting on a “compromise” that will supposedly lead to the repeal of HB2, North Carolina’s law restricting LGBT protections and imposing discrimination against transgender individuals’ bathroom use. If Charlotte repeals its LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance first, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) promises he’ll convince the legislature to respond in turn. Not only does the deal do nothing to advance LGBT protections, but he and the other lawmakers who support HB2 have signaled in various ways that they are not to be trusted to uphold their end of the bargain anyway.
McCrory seems to be feeling the heat on HB2 so much that he’s avoiding taking questions about it in public. At a lunch event last week, McCrory’s staff planted softball questions it claimed were from the Charlotte Observer so that he could rebuff actual questions from the newspaper’s Editorial Page Editor Taylor Batten, saying, “We’ve got three Observer questions answered already. I think you guys dominate the news enough.”
Instead, McCrory spoke to Batten by phone later, dodging questions about HB2 by instead blaming the federal government for not settling the question of LGBT protections. Batten made clear he was not impressed in his own column about the incident, and the Observer itself followed suit on Sunday. In a scathing editorial, the newspaper urged the Charlotte City Council not to cave to the “compromise” that has been demanded of them. The editorial makes a compelling case that the outcome would only be political cover for those already hiding from responsibility for HB2, and that it would do so by “selling out the LGBT community.”
Blaming Charlotte for doing the right thing
The pressure is on to make the Council feel like it bears responsibility for both the provoking the passage of HB2 and for now arranging for its repeal. The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, which floated the “compromise” last week, stood by its position Sunday, insisting, “We believe a reset is necessary. To break an impasse, one side has to make the first move.”
Ned Curran, chairman of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, also piled on in an op-ed this weekend. “This is simply an opportunity for all sides to say there have been grave, unintended consequences resulting from their prior parliamentary actions,” he said, implying that Charlotte is just as much to blame for trying to protect the LGBT community. “By repealing the law all sides get to recalibrate their approach to the issues.” It’s unclear what recalibration is necessary for those who wish to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.
But that’s not a surprising take from the Chamber, which tried to make the exact same “compromise” happen back in May. The Charlotte City Council voted 7–4 to keep the LGBT ordinance, passing the hot potato that is HB2 back to the state officials who passed it in the first place. Now they’re trying to deposit it back in Charlotte’s lap again.
In a statement released Saturday, House Speaker Tim Moore (R) gave the Council plenty of reason to make the same decision this time around. Rather than framing the “compromise” as a show of good trust and good grace from both sides, he claimed that “the legislature and governor did not create this controversy” and forcefully called on the Council to “fully and unconditionally repeal their ordinance” before he and his colleagues would consider repeal. In the same statement, he reiterated his belief that HB2’s anti-transgender discrimination is somehow “ensuring basic privacy and safety protections of citizens in bathrooms, showers, and changing facilities.”
McCrory eagerly thanked Moore for his statement on Twitter.
The election could solve the problem
McCrory, Moore, and other Republican lawmakers seem to be hoping that they will be given an excuse to do something about HB2 before the election that doesn’t result in any more LGBT protections than existed before Charlotte’s ordinance. Even if it’s not full repeal, they might hope that they can move just enough to claim they did a good thing and get reelected. That’s the idea behind the “reset,” but many signs suggest it does nothing but serve as political cover for those who support HB2.
As the Observer pointed out in its editorial, the only way for Charlotte to continue protecting the LGBT community from discrimination is to just keep fueling the political pressure. “An HB2 compromise,” the paper wrote, “simply gives the governor and Republican lawmakers less reason to do what they don’t want to do.”
Curran’s column calling for the “compromise” further highlights the electoral implications:
The proposal also presents a fresh opportunity for a demonstration of trust. It won’t be long before a new legislative session begins. No doubt there will be a myriad of issues where all citizens would be better served if the city, the General Assembly and Governor can work together to address opportunities and challenges. By successfully working together to achieve repeal, city and state officials will demonstrate compromise is possible.
Curran sounds as if he’s counting on the same governor and lawmakers coming back in January and continuing the same debates that are underway now. He ignores the fact that there’s a tight election underway.
McCrory’s gubernatorial campaign is even trying to take advantage of the state’s economic fallout, blaming his opponent, Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), for the NCAA and ACC withdrawing their championships from the state instead of HB2. A fundraising recruitment page that McCrory tweeted out last week reads, “Roy Cooper has resorted to using sports as a political weapon to enact economic damage on North Carolina in order to help win a gubernatorial election. Sports should not be politicized. Period.”
Cooper, who opposes HB2 and has refused to defend it in court, released a short statement Monday morning rebuffing the governor. “The damage to our economy must be stopped and it is clear that full repeal of HB2 will accomplish this,” he wrote. “The Governor should call for a special session today. It’s time for the Governor to be a leader, not a follower.”
McCrory is blaming everybody he can for the backlash to HB2, including Roy Cooper, the Charlotte Observer, and the Charlotte City Council. Neither Cooper nor the Observer are falling for it, so hopefully the Council makes the same call.