North Carolina Governor Eases Off Defending Anti-LGBT Law — Except not at All

by Zack Ford –

Pat McCrory is holding HB2 repeal hostage, demanding Charlotte’s LGBT protections be repealed first.

Transgender bathroom sign

There’s a lot of chatter coming out of North Carolina about the possibility of repealing HB2, the odious anti-LGBT law that dictates what bathrooms transgender people can use, but it’s actually just a new spin on the same talking points Gov. Pat McCrory (R) has been using to defend it for months.

In the wake of the NCAA and ACC pulling their championships from the state this week, the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association (NCRLA) is trying to stop the economic bleeding. In a statement released Friday, the group implied its support for a compromise it believes it could broker to repeal HB2. NCRLA president and CEO Lynn Minges explained the proposal:

NCRLA has received assurances this week from legislative leadership, that if the Charlotte City Council repeals Ordinance #7056 at their meeting on Monday, the General Assembly is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2. Furthermore, Governor Pat McCrory has assured NCRLA that he is willing to call legislators into a special session next week for this purpose if both the city and legislators have the votes for repeal.

The Charlotte Observer confirmed with a McCrory spokesperson that if Charlotte repeals its ordinance, the governor “will call a special session” to repeal HB2.

Charlotte’s ordinance simply extended nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity — protections that dozens of cities and more than half of states similarly already offer. When the City Council originally considered the law earlier this year, McCrory warned that there would be retaliation, but they passed it anyway and HB2 was that retaliation.

So the compromise isn’t one that actually does anything to help LGBT people; if both laws are repealed, it would simply reset the situation to before Charlotte’s ordinance was passed. That was a time when there were no state or local protections for LGBT people anywhere in North Carolina and discrimination, so there was nothing preventing the kind of discrimination that HB2 now dictates.

And there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to trust that the compromise would even play out that way. Plenty of previous proposals to walk back HB2 have ignored the bathroom restrictions, the most problematic aspect of the law. Another part of HB2 is a provision that bans cities from passing their own LGBT protections, so it’s possible the compromise might lead to only repealing that part of the law, leaving the anti-transgender portion in place. And according to the Observer, the Republican caucus hasn’t even discussed the repeal that McCrory has promised.

The Human Rights Campaign condemned state officials for trying “the same cheap trick,” because this isn’t even the first time proponents of HB2 have attempted this exact bait-and-switch. Back in May, it was the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce instead of the NCRLA that tried to blame Charlotte for somehow instigating this standoff and attempted broker an identical compromise. The City Council discussed it and pointed out that it’s HB2 that’s hurting the state, not the city’s ordinance, and they voted 7–4 to reject that compromise.

If the council revisits the conversation on Monday — as the compromise requires — it could likely play out the same way. Even if the vote flips, Mayor Jennifer Roberts (D) supports the protections, so she could veto such a repeal, and a council override requires seven votes.

In another sign that McCrory is feeling the heat, he actually withdrew the state’s lawsuit against the federal government Friday. Dueling lawsuits had been filed in May, each in a different district. In a brief notice requesting dismissal, McCrory’s lawyers explained that there was no point in spending resources to fight the same fight in two different courts:

In light of the fact that plaintiffs’ claims in this action have now been asserted as counterclaims in the Middle District Case, the substantial costs to the State of litigating similar legal issues in two different judicial districts, and the interests of judicial economy and efficiency, plaintiffs feel compelled to file this notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice.

So McCrory will still defend HB2 in court, spending taxpayer money to do so, but he’ll only do it in one court instead of in two. In July, the General Assembly diverted $500,000 from disaster relief funds to help pay for the litigation.

Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who is challenging McCrory in the gubernatorial race, refuses to defend HB2 in court. A recent Quinnipiac University poll (from just before the NCAA and ACC news) found that Cooper was beating McCrory 51–44.

Reprinted with permission from Think Progress, a branch of The Center for American Progress