Anti-LGBT Discrimination Remains The Law In North Carolina As Lawmakers Adjourn

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERRY BROOME
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERRY BROOME

North Carolina’s lawmakers are going home, but HB2, the anti-transgender law they forced through on a single day in March, isn’t going anywhere.

The state legislature adjourned on Friday after making only a small fix to HB2 that does nothing to change the way it discriminates against transgender people by dictating their bathroom usage. Even the “fix” that was floated earlier this week to appease the NBA was dropped after being widely decried for simply creating new ways for transgender people to prove their gender identity. It probably didn’t help that the NBA flat-out rejected the proposal as insufficiently addressing their concerns. They have not made a new decision yet about whether to follow through on plans to hold the NBA All-Star Game in Charlotte next year.

Before adjourning, lawmakers did approve two HB2-related provisions.

The first was a fix to a separate provision of HB2 that prohibited anyone in North Carolina from suing for discrimination under state law. The state’s nondiscrimination protections — which are not LGBT-inclusive — didn’t go away, but HB2 eliminated the primary mechanism for enforcing them. On Friday, lawmakers restored the right to sue for discrimination in state court, but they still made it harder than it was before. Prior to HB2, the statute of limitations was three years for such a suit, but the legislature lowered it to just one year. The House passed the fix 85–15 and the Senate 26–14.

The House also overwhelmingly approved (89–23) Gov. Pat McCrory’s (R) request for $500,000 to be divested from the state’s disaster relief fund to pay the legal bills to defend HB2 in court. Because Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) refuses to defend the discriminatory law, McCrory has had to hire outside counsel. House Speaker Tim Moore (R) defended the reallocation, claiming, “The state has more money set aside between disaster relief and the rainy day fund than at any time in the state’s history.”

Despite not pressing for any real changes to HB2, Moore’s still worried about the All-Star Game. “I certainly hope that the NBA will keep the All-Star Game here,” he said Friday. “The process I don’t think lends itself to (passing) legislation perhaps that they might want to see. I hope that they — and frankly every business that had concerns about discrimination arguments — see fixing this issue with access to state courts as fixing that.”

Considering lawmakers called a special session to pass HB2 in literally just one calendar day — including in all committees, both chambers, and the governor’s signature — it’s unclear what “process” Moore is referring to.

Moreover, his hope that the legislature’s actions will allay concerns seems to suggest he is oblivious to the concerns anyone has expressed. Not only does Friday’s fix not change the fact that transgender people will still be discriminated against, it remains the case that LGBT people are still not protected under the state nondiscrimination laws, so they still won’t be able to sue over discrimination at all. In fact, HB2’s provision that municipalities are forbidden from extending nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community remains in place as well.

In other words, after months of objections, protests, and boycotts regarding how HB2 discriminates against LGBT people, lawmakers fixed the only aspect of the law that doesn’t impact LGBT people at all.