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Charlotte surprisingly repeals LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance in advance of hyped HB2 repeal

Was the city duped?

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts assuring the press in September that the City Council wouldn’t repeal its LGBT protections. CREDIT: AP Photo/Skip Foreman
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts assuring the press in September that the City Council wouldn’t repeal its LGBT protections. CREDIT: AP Photo/Skip Foreman

In a 10–0 vote, the Charlotte City Council abruptly repealed the city’s LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance Monday morning in what appears to be a deal with the North Carolina legislature to repeal HB2. This is a compromise they’ve rejected twice before, and it’s unclear what motivates their sudden faith that state lawmakers will actually put an end to the discriminatory law.

Indeed, there’s every reason to believe that both Charlotte and Governor-elect Roy Cooper (D) have been duped.

Cooper, who as attorney general opposed and refused to defend HB2, claimed Monday morning that the legislature will hold a special session Tuesday “to repeal HB2 in full.” This, he hopes, will put an end to the massive economic backlash the law has faced because of how anti-LGBT it is. In addition to banning trans people from public bathrooms that match their gender identity, it prohibited cities like Charlotte from extending any nondiscrimination protections to the LGBT community.

Charlotte basically used that as an excuse for the vote. In a statement, the council claimed that HB2 invalidated the city’s ordinance, so it made sense to repeal it. “The City and State must take action together to restore our collective reputation,” they explained. “The City urges the State to follow immediately with a repeal of House Bill 2.”

Unfortunately, there is zero reason for Cooper or Charlotte to believe what Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R) have claimed about repealing HB2.

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This will be the third time that the legislature and Gov. Pat McCrory (R) have claimed that Charlotte needs to repeal its ordinance before they’d consider repealing HB2. In May, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce tried to pressure the Council into repealing the ordinance, and then in September it was the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association’s turn to broker the deal. In both cases, Charlotte and its LGBT ordinance were blamed for the passage of HB2 and the economic backlash, and in both cases, the Council stood strong and refused to take the bait.

It’s a good thing, too, because it was always a sham deal. Speaker Moore has openly admitted that the “deal” never would have resulted in a full repeal of HB2. Shortly after Charlotte rejected the second compromise, he said in an interview that the plan would have been for the legislature to “get rid of most of those provisions and just make sure that we kept in the bathroom piece and the other things.” In other words, they would have still maintained the most discriminatory part of HB2, the ban on transgender people’s bathroom usage, which would have done nothing to end the economic backlash.

McCrory made the same admission about a week later in an interview with CBN News. When asked if he had considered repealing HB2, he replied, “No, not based upon the concept of changing the definition of gender.” He was referring to the same bathroom provision, which requires transgender people use restrooms in accordance with the gender listed on their birth certificate.

Not only was a compromise a sham, but it was motivated by discriminatory intent. Charlotte’s ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination was no different from laws passed in about 20 states and dozens of other cities. But McCrory and lawmakers have continually blamed the city’s accommodations for transgender people as justification for HB2. They wouldn’t have had to ban trans people from bathrooms across the state, they argue, if the city hadn’t passed a law allowing trans people to use the restrooms. It’s an absurd argument that just assumes everyone agrees that discriminating against transgender people is the right thing to do, and no law in the state should protect them.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts defended the Council’s actions Monday morning and insisted that the vote “should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to non-discrimination.” But given it inherently caves to the idea that the only way forward for North Carolina is to allow discrimination against LGBT people, it’s hard to see it any other way.

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And though Cooper seems to believe there will be a “full” repeal of HB2, neither the legislature nor the governor have given anyone more reason to trust them in the interim. Just last week, they rammed through a bill undermining how much power Cooper will have as governor. The legislation was passed in much the same fashion as HB2 — hastily and without any public input.

Cooper’s election may have been a referendum on HB2 in a state that otherwise voted for Republicans, but it might not matter. With a veto-proof majority and even more power over the executive, Republican lawmakers can keep discrimination on the books if they so choose. But if they think they can end the economic backlash by only pretending to repeal HB2, they will likely be disappointed.

UPDATE: McCrory chided the Council in a statement, suggesting that the post-election vote proved that “the political left” only held on to the Charlotte ordinance for political reasons.

UPDATE: Monday afternoon, Berger and Moore joined McCrory in blaming Charlotte for making what they claim was a purely political decision. Their statement suggests their continued rejection of transgender people, referencing the idea that Charlotte’s protections would somehow “force men into women’s bathrooms and shower facilities.”

Contrary to their insinuation, transgender women are, in fact, women — not men.

They also claim that Cooper is lying about the legislature’s agreement to come back into session, claiming that the decision is up to McCrory. McCrory has, in fact, called for that session.