RALEIGH — Local legislators who voted to repeal House Bill 2 are underlining the fact that state law still requires people to use the bathroom that aligns with their gender at birth.
“Repeal of HB2 does not allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choosing,” Sen. Danny Britt said.
“The only law on the books to allow that was the Charlotte law,” Rep. Brenden Jones said.
On Thursday, House Bill 142 was signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper as legislators scrambled to get HB2 repealed so North Carolina would not be excluded by the NCAA when it picks venues for championship events through 2022. The bill repealed the controversial HB2, but kept in place statewide restrictions on bathrooms and locker rooms being used in accordance to a person’s gender at birth.
That distinction was important for local legislators on both sides of the aisle, but has continued criticism from equality advocates. All five local legislators, Sen. Britt and Rep. Jones, both Republicans, and Reps. Charles Graham, Garland Pierce and Ken Goodman, all Democrats, voted in favor of what is being called a “reset” of HB2.
For Graham voting for HB2 last year and HB142 on Thursday came with the same motivation.
“My vote has always been to protect little girls and women in the bathroom,” he said.
Pierce said his vote was also to move North Carolina on from the stigma of HB2 and to a better economic future.
But Pierce, a church pastor, said he understand the frustrations of the LGBT community and its members belief that the new bill is no better than HB2.
“The LGBTQ community feel that it was double-down on, I understand that,” he said. “We have to adapt and continue to work for change … You’ve got to recognize, as we say in my church, we cheerfully acknowledge the right of the majority to rule.”
The cries of inequality and being left out of the discussion continue from North Carolina’s LGBTQ advocates.
“HB2 was hastily passed without any input from the LGBTQ community just one year ago,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC. “(Thursday) we returned to the legislature with a deal made between Gov. Cooper, Phil Berger and Tim Moore that once again left out the ones most impacted by the discriminatory law — LGBTQ North Carolinians. Lawmakers and Gov. Cooper have failed to resolve the problems with HB2 by doubling down on discrimination. Once again, the North Carolina General Assembly has enshrined discrimination into North Carolina law.”
Britt disagrees with Sgro’s assessment that the bill is discriminatory, saying he “feels like we’ve got a right not to have that lifestyle forced upon us.”
“There is already a law on the books, if you go into a restroom other than that of your biological gender, it is second-degree trespassing,” said Britt, an attorney who pointed out that the statute has been upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. “We need a law that is not forced on the state by a radical, liberal city council in Charlotte.”
The Charlotte council early in 2016 adopted an ordinance allowing people to pick their public restroom based on how they self-identified, and that led to HB2.
The next step for HB142 could be the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
“I do believe this issue will end up in the courts,” Graham said.
Jones and Britt believe that HB2 was going to be struck down in the Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
Britt pointed out the court has struck down several laws that the General Assembly in recent years has adopted, saying “the Fourth Circuit has not sided with the Republican Party.”
With a court battle over the law at least delayed, local legislators are hopeful that the state will not suffer further economic damage.
An Associated Press analysis found the law would cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years. The tally was based on companies and events that already backed out, meaning that money won’t likely return even with HB2 gone.
“Some harm has been done to the economy, we needed to reach this compromise,” Britt said.
The North Carolina Chamber of Commerce thanked Cooper and Republican legislative leaders “for coming together on a bipartisan basis to find a solution.” However, several businesses have reacted to House Bill 142’s restrictions.
IBM, which has a large Raleigh-area operation, expressed reservations.
“IBM opposed North Carolina’s HB2 because it discriminates against people for being who they are. We welcome its repeal, but stronger local nondiscrimination laws should not be pre-empted,” said the company’s chief diversity officer, Lindsay-Rae McIntyre.
NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday that the association will soon decide whether its replacement represents “a sufficient change in the law.”
Jones and Britt were adamant Friday that the decision to repeal HB2 and replace it with HB142 has “absolutely nothing” to do with the NCAA.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, which had moved some sporting events out of North Carolina, including the championship game last year in football, said Friday it was satisfied, and the state would again be eligible to host championship events.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly