North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper Has Endorsed a HB2 Deal Vehemently Opposed by LGBT advocates. Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers

N.C. Lawmakers Reach Deal on HB2 Criticized as 'A Train Wreck'

by Chris Johnson, Washington Blade

With the NCAA's threat looming of no championship games for the state for years to come, North Carolina lawmakers came to an agreement Wednesday night with Gov. Roy Cooper on a deal to undo anti-LGBT House Bill 2 -- and LGBT rights supporters are outraged over a proposal they say doubles-down on discrimination.

In exchange for repeal HB2, Republican leaders of the legislature and the governor agreed during a behind-the-doors meeting to a different measure that still precludes efforts to prohibit discrimination against LGBT people.

Section 1 of the bill bars state agencies, including cities and the University of North Carolina, from the "regulation of access" to multiple-occupancy restroom, showers or changing facilities except in accordance with the legislature, which essentially leaves transgender people seeking to use those facilities vulnerable to harassment or discrimination.

Section 2 of the bill prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances on private employment or public accommodations, which would bar cities from passing LGBT non-discrimination measures in those areas. Section 3 of the bill would sunset that provision on Dec. 1, 2020.

The deal was struck came in the same week the National Collegiate Athletic Association said it will make decisions on events. The NCAA has said North Carolina won't be considered for championship events through 2022 "absent any change" to HB2. According to the Associated Press, North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

Cooper, who campaigned on HB2 repeal and was supported by LGBT advocates, endorsed the deal in a statement as means to revive North Carolina, which has suffered from economic boycott as a result of the law. Earlier this week, the Associated Press estimated HB2 would cost North Carolina $3.76 billion over the course of a dozen years.

"I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow," Cooper said. "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation."

But LGBT rights supporters erupted into a fury shortly after the compromise was unveiled, saying the proposal isn't repeal and instead reinforces discrimination in the state.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said in a statement the proposal is "a train wreck that would double down on anti-LGBTQ discrimination."

"Those who stand for equality and with LGBTQ people are standing strong against these antics," Sgro said. "We've got less than 24 hours before the NCAA deadline. There is no time to waste - our leaders must fight for what's right, and that is full repeal."

According to media reports, the NCAA has issued no statement of position on the deal, nor has the Atlantic Coast Conference. Both leagues have cancelled championship games in North Carolina as a result of HB2.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, went into a tirade on Twitter after the proposal was made public, saying Cooper's support for the measure amounts to a failure of leadership.

According to the Associated Press, lawmakers said the deal debated and voted on Thursday, although it's unclear whether enough votes are present in the House and Senate to pass it.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement the proposal "pushes aside real North Carolinians in favor of political expediency."

"Let me be clear: this is not a repeal," Keisling said. "It's a cynical ploy that will continue to hurt North Carolina and transgender people. Passing this bill would mean that North Carolina continues to be one of the very few states where it's illegal for cities to protect the rights of their residents."

It should be noted the compromise is less favorable to opponents of HB2 than a compromise that Democrats and Cooper rejected in December. The proposal would have repealed HB2, but left in place a moratorium prohibiting cities from enacting LGBT non-discrimination ordinances for six months.

Chase Strangio, a staff attorney with the ACLU's LGBT & AIDS Project, mocked the governor on Twitter for negotiating a deal that he said is worse than the one he opposed months ago.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association.This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National Gay Media Association.
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