NC Gov. Roy Cooper Signs Compromise Bill Repealing HB2

Mar 30, 2017

Updated 6:48 p.m. 3/30/2017

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has signed a compromise measure to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial law that limits protections for LGBT people.

The deal removes the requirement that transgender people must use the restroom that matches the sex on their birth certificate but leaves state legislators in charge of policy on public restrooms. The proposal also bans local governments from passing nondiscrimination ordinances affecting private employers until December 2020.

"This law I’m signing today is not just about North Carolina’s reputation or jobs or sports. It's about working to end discrimination," Cooper said at an afternoon press conference.  "For over a year now, House Bill 2 has been a dark cloud handing over our great state. It has stained our reputation, it has discriminated against our people and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities."

Related: A State Divided: HB2 & Transgender Rights - A Special Report

News of the compromise came just ahead of an NCAA deadline. The association had said it would exclude the state from consideration for upcoming tournaments unless the law was changed.

At a press conference late Thursday, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the association’s board will meet in the next few days to determine whether the HB2 repeal is a sufficient change in the law to return championships to North Carolina.

“Because this happened on such short notice, we have to find a time to get together with the board in the next few days,” said Emmert, adding he expects to announce the board’s decisions early next week.
 

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and a dozen GOP colleagues talk about a compromise deal to repeal House Bill 2 during a press conference on March 30, 2017.
Credit Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

The compromise bill passed the state Senate 32 to 16 in a morning vote, and later in the House 70 to 48. The agreement was included as an amendment to an already-existing bill. After the vote, House Speaker Tim Moore described the deal as a "very measured approach."

"The one thing that I kept hearing from folks back home and all around this state was ‘protect the bathrooms’ and make sure you didn’t have cities getting into the business, trying to do things and go above beyond what we have as a state," Moore said. "And I think we succeeded in doing that."

A vote breakdown by party in both the state Senate and House of Representatives.
Credit Jason deBruyn / WUNC

Advocates, Politicians On Both Sides Of The Aisle Decry The Repeal

On Thursday, Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Robert issued a statement condemning the HB2 repeal. Legislators passed HB2 last year as a reaction to the city of Charlotte passing a non-discrimination ordinance that protected people regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

"I am deeply disappointed that the Republican leaders in the General Assembly continue to see LGBT people as unequal and refuse to let cities like Charlotte govern themselves," she said. "This is a rejection of Charlotte's and North Carolina's progressive, inclusive values. We are not HB2, and we are not today's false repeal."

LGBT and civil rights activists also decried the compromise deal, saying it replaces one discriminatory law with another.

North Carolina lawmakers should be ashamed of this backroom deal that continues to play politics with the lives of LGBT North Carolinians. - James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project

Equality NC and the American Civil Liberties Union say the measure as proposed excludes LGBT people from state anti-discrimination protections and will postpone LGBT protections for four years until local governments could be allowed to tackle changes. 

“This is not a repeal of HB2. Instead, they’re reinforcing the worst aspects of the law,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, said in a statement. “North Carolina lawmakers should be ashamed of this backroom deal that continues to play politics with the lives of LGBT North Carolinians.”
 

Joaquín Carcaño is one of four plaintiffs in a lawsuit against House Bill 2, the controversial law that limits protections for LGBT people. He spoke at a press conference on March 30, 2017 in opposition of an HB2 compromise bill, saying it favors basketball over the rights and safety of LGBT community.
Credit Rusty Jacobs / WUNC

Tami Fitzgerald of the NC Values Coalition said lawmakers scurried to make concessions just to appease the NCAA.

"No basketball game, corporation, or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "HB2 was a compassionate, reasonable law that  guaranteed that wouldn't happen, and provided sensitive solutions for transgender individuals as well so that everyone's privacy was protected."

No basketball game, corporation, or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom. -Tami Fitzgerald, NC Values Coalition

Transgender celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner also took to social media to condemn the repeal compromise. In a tweet, Jenner said the deal is not a true repeal of HB2.

"@NCAA and businesses need to send a message to NC that hate with a new name is still discrimination #FullRepeal," the tweet read.

For more than a year, HB2 has divided North Carolina and set off a national debate about public safety, common sense and government authority. There were large, loud, passionate rallies for and against the so-called bathroom bill.

Among other things, HB2 required transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate and prohibited local governments from creating nondiscrimination ordinances and regulating minimum wage.

One week after legislators passed HB2, North Carolina saw the first concrete financial consequence of HB2: PayPal scrapped a plan to invest more than $3 million to expand to North Carolina and hire 400 people. Then musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr pulled concerts. And the NCAA and ACC pulled nearly two dozen championship games from the state.

Previous attempts to repeal the controversial law failed.

Jason deBruyn, Rebecca Martinez and Liz Schlemmer contributed to this report.