North Carolina Republicans balk at clean repeal of anti-transgender law HB2

They really, really, really want to discriminate against transgender people.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) and Senate leader Phil Berger (R) at Tuesday’s press conference. Berger held up emails he says confirm that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) supported the compromise. CREDIT: News Observer/Screenshot
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) and Senate leader Phil Berger (R) at Tuesday’s press conference. Berger held up emails he says confirm that Gov. Roy Cooper (D) supported the compromise. CREDIT: News Observer/Screenshot

North Carolina is mere hours away from losing out on hosting any NCAA event over the next six years because of HB2, the state’s law mandating discrimination of transgender people in state buildings and public schools. Politically, the picture hasn’t really changed since December, with Republicans in the legislature still resisting any clean repeal of the law. But the theatrical finger-pointing continues.

On Tuesday, there was another kerfuffle as House Speaker Tim Moore (R) and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R) announced at a press conference they had agreed to a repeal compromise offered by Gov. Roy Cooper (D). Berger even provided copies of emails from Cooper’s office that he said demonstrated the governor had actively promoted the compromise. Immediately after the press conference, however, Cooper denounced the plan, which incidentally has no support from Democratic lawmakers.

The compromise Berger and Moore were excited about — which at this point does not exist in the form of an actual bill, and may never — would still be extremely anti-LGBT despite technically repealing HB2:

  • The state would still dictate which bathrooms transgender people could use, such that — as Berger described it — “women and girls should not have to share bathrooms with men.”
  • Cities would only be allowed to implement employment and public accommodation nondiscrimination protections for the classes already protected under federal law. Since federal law doesn’t protect sexual orientation or gender identity, municipalities would still be prohibited from extending those protections. This is akin to “preemption laws” passed in other states like Tennessee and Arkansas that similarly prohibit cities from implementing or enforcing LGBT protections.
  • It would also create a new “right of conscience,” so that anyone accused of discriminating against an LGBT person would have a stronger case so long as they argued that they were acting on their conscience. This is nearly identical to the expansive Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Indiana put forth in 2015 and that other states have also considered.

Given how weighted the compromise would still be against LGBT people, “compromise” may not even be an accurate word to describe it. It’s certainly not clear that it would assuage the NCAA, which has threatened to pull all events from North Carolina until 2022 if the law isn’t repealed. When asked at the press conference whether he thinks the compromise will be enough for the NCAA and others that have pulled their business from the state, Berger replied, “I would say it should, but again, I have had no specific conversations with them about this.”

The NCAA has supposedly given lawmakers a deadline of Thursday to address HB2 before it starts determining NCAA championship locations without considering North Carolina. Given the theater around the supposed compromise and the fact that no bill even exists, it seems unlikely at this point that any legislation will move forward within that deadline.

The latest back-and-forth echoes the last round of political machinations that took place in December. Republicans in the legislature refused to accept a clean repeal bill, Cooper tried to broker a compromise, the whole thing fell apart, and the Republican leadership tried to blame everybody but themselves that HB2 remained law. They promptly resumed lying about the nature and fate of HB2 to avoid taking responsibility for it.

HB2 remains one of the most discriminatory anti-LGBT laws on the books in any state. The state Republican leadership refuses to consider any clean repeal of the law, insisting that some mechanism for discriminating against transgender people must remain.