North Carolina Republicans had one job to do on Wednesday: repeal the anti-LGBT law HB2. It’s what they promised to do if Charlotte repealed its LGBT protections, which it did. The Senate considered a couple different versions of repeal bills, but each had exceptions that maintained HB2’s prohibition on cities like Charlotte passing LGBT protections in the future. Because they weren’t the full repeal that lawmakers had promised (on multiple occasions), Democrats opposed them and they failed. The leadership gave up, then tried to blame everybody but themselves for their utter failure.
The Republicans’ reactions to their flop of a special session take on a special kind of hubris. They are actually trying to score political points for supporting the repeal of HB2, when they are the very ones who scuttled the repeal of HB2. Almost all of them have taken the opportunity to double down on their anti-transgender beliefs with references to the “safety and privacy” they are supposedly (and needlessly) trying to protect. Here are some of their statements.
Gov. Pat McCrory
Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has been one of HB2’s stalwart defenders, but he did keep his end of the bargain and call the special session to repeal it. When the Republicans in the General Assembly failed to do just that, McCrory instead blamed the left.
“As promised, I called a Special Session to reconsider a manufactured political issue that strategically targeted the city of Charlotte and our state by well-funded left-wing interest groups,” he said in a statement. “This was at least the third time that pressure from the left sabotaged bipartisan good faith agreements for political purposes.”
McCrory did not explain how bills that fell short of the repeal that was promised were “good faith agreements,” nor did he explain how they were “bipartisan,” considering Republicans spent most of Wednesday in closed caucuses devising them.
Senate leader Phil Berger
Because most of the action Wednesday happened in the Senate, it was on Senate leader Phil Berger (R) to put forth a repeal bill that could pass. It failed, and his subsequent statements suggest that he was livid about how things transpired.
In a fiery note on Facebook, he lashed out at Senate Democrats and Governor-elect Roy Cooper (D), accusing them of “hypocrisy” for refusing to vote for repeal of HB2 now that Charlotte had rescinded its ordinance “that forces men into women’s bathrooms and changing facilities.” He claimed they voted down a clean repeal, but that bill was still going to be followed by one that instituted a moratorium on municipal protections, so it was never actually clean. This is obvious in his many statements still insisting that transgender people must be prohibited from bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
— Senator Phil Berger (@SenatorBerger) December 22, 2016
“They aren’t interested in moving past this issue or protecting the privacy and safety of North Carolina families,” he wrote. “They’re brass-knuckled politicians who want to wage a nasty culture war with divisive issues, so they can keep filling their campaign coffers with case from fringe liberal activists.”
“We long suspected they’re the worst kind of politicians. Today, they proved it.”
In a similar statement posted an hour earlier, Berger also accused Cooper and Senate Democrats of wanting to “force radical social engineering and shared bathrooms across North Carolina, at the expense of our state’s families, our reputation and our economy.”
There has been no effect on families — except those with transgender kids now subject to discrimination — and HB2 is entirely to blame for the damage to the state’s reputation and economy. But Berger takes no responsibility for that.
The North Carolina Republican Party
Though it was the Republicans’ fault for not upholding their end of the bargain, the state’s party was eager to blame Cooper and Senate Democrats. NCGOP issued a brief statement Wednesday entitled, “NCGOP Calls on Cooper to Pay for Costs of Smoke and Mirrors Session.”
The text doesn’t live up to the title in terms of calling on Cooper to actually pay for the special session, but it does still blame him for the repeal effort failing. According to NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes, “This is nothing more than smoke and mirrors and the people of North Carolina deserve more than the lies and collusion that Roy Cooper has fashioned himself accustomed to.”
Assuming Wednesday’s special session cost taxpayers the same amount as the special session in March when lawmakers first forced through HB2, Republicans wasted another $42,000 not repealing HB2.
Earlier in the day, NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse had excoriated Cooper for turning on the repeal bill, suggesting that the moratorium on municipal LGBT protections just meant that the proposed repeal “simply has teeth.”
“The people of North Carolina who support repeal should know Cooper sold them down the river with a wink and a nod,” Woodhouse fumed, “to radical leftists who were waiting for the repeal and start this destructive fight all over.”
The North Carolina Values Coalition
The North Carolina Values Coalition, the state’s most prominent social conservative advocacy group, apparently didn’t get the memo about trying to do political damage to Cooper and Democratic lawmakers. Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald statement simply praised the Senate for not repealing HB2, using the opportunity to reiterate the group’s anti-transgender beliefs.
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During the election, the NC Values Coalition recycled a malicious ad that had been used in the campaign to overturn Houston’s LGBT protections to attack Cooper. It shows a man entering a women’s bathroom and — after washing and drying his hands —following a young girl into her stall.
House Speaker Tim Moore
Like McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore (R) had openly admitted in the past that when he and other Republican leaders had offered to repeal HB2, what they really meant is that they would have maintained provisions restricting bathroom access for transgender people. It seems unlikely then that he actually had any interest in supporting the full repeal that Cooper had supposedly brokered.
Moore hasn’t issued any formal statements like some of his colleagues have, but he spoke briefly with Capital Tonight News after the session Wednesday evening. In his remarks, he blamed the Charlotte City Council for not fully repealing its LGBT ordinance on Monday, even though they met quickly Wednesday morning to clear that up before the legislative special session even started. “There’s a lot of trust issues right now,” he said.
He openly admitted that the proposed moratorium was designed specifically to block cities other than Charlotte from “going out and adopting ordinances — doing these things — so that we can really come in with something that’s comprehensive to deal with what is a very controversial issue.” In other words, he and other lawmakers oppose basic nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people and want to maintain HB2’s prohibition on cities passing them.
He also indicated he supported maintaining HB2’s bathroom prohibitions for transgender people, even if it means somehow reintroducing them in a different bill. “At the end of the day, the thing we want to make sure we’re doing is that, when it comes to the restrooms and the changing rooms and all that that there’s those protections there,” he said. “We think there’s other ways to do it.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest
In North Carolina, the lieutenant governor presides over the Senate, casting the deciding vote in the case of ties. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest (R) made it clear before Wednesday’s special session commenced that he opposed repeal, wanting nothing to do with the agreement supposedly struck with Charlotte.
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, Forest explained:
I support HB2 and do not favor its repeal. No economic, political, or ideological pressure can convince me that what is wrong is right. It will always be wrong for men [sic] to have access to women’s showers and bathrooms.
He has been mum since the special session failed Wednesday evening.