Compromise to undo 'bathroom bill' passes key hurdle

Posted March 31, 2017

Leaders of the state's House and Senate today (30 March) said they had reached a compromise with Democrat governor Roy Cooper to change the law, which was brought in a year ago.

Just hours after the deal was announced Wednesday night, a dozen gay rights activists gathered outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, where Gov. Roy Cooper hosted Democrats, urging them to support the plan. Details about the replacement weren't immediately available.

Ironically, the Senate vote was 32-16 against the first of a two-part vote on repealing HB2 - also featuring a moratorium component - during the December 21 special session.

Republican lawmakers and Cooper have sought an agreement by this week because the NCAA was poised to deny championship events to the state unless changes were made to the law known as House Bill 2. Also, businesses canceled expansions or moves to North Carolina, the National Basketball Association withdrew its All-Star Game from Charlotte, and entertainers such as Bruce Springsteen canceled concerts.

Although the deal would repeal key provisions of HB2, critics -including LGBTQ groups - contend it would keep objectionable parts, such as keeping bathroom regulation in the legislature's hands.

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The proposed repeal was prompted by increasing backlash-North Carolina stands to lose $3.7 billion from business boycotts of the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union released a statement opposing the repeal of HB 2. North Carolina cities and universities submitted 133 bids for tournaments through 2022, with an estimated economic impact of $250 million.

"Unfortunately, it seems Gov. Cooper needs a loud reminder of what he was elected to do", said AHO co-founder Tina Haver Currin in a statement.

"This proposal is a train wreck that would double down on anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Instead, they're reinforcing the worst aspects of the law", said James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project.

A compromise to end North Carolina's "bathroom bill" has crossed an early hurdle when it was approved by the state Senate rules committee. The NCAA is expected to announce its choice for hosting future championship games shortly, so lawmakers are scrambling to get the bill passed in the hope of reclaiming the role.

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"The people who love and care for us do not support this bill, and if the stigma and the suffering associated with HB2 continues, then it is the cross of my community to bear", said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover.

Cooper, the Democrat who beat incumbent Pat McCrory on a campaign of vowing to repealing the bathroom law, said before the votes that he supported the compromise.

The House Democratic leader said later there had been no formal offer and called the Republican leaders' news conference a stunt because the GOP lacks the votes to pass a bill.

Governor Cooper, who ran for election on a platform of repealing HB2, said: "It's not a flawless deal, but it repeals HB2 and begins to fix our reputation".

Charlotte Regional Partnership CEO Ronnie Bryant said repealing HB2 was one of the most important economic development issues facing the state. "It is a backroom deal that shows no input from the community, that shows no leadership from lawmakers, that shows a callous disregard for the basic humanity of the trans and gender non-conforming people that call North Carolina home".

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- As quickly as House Bill 2 was enacted 53 weeks ago, the controversial state law limiting LGBT rights and transgender bathroom access was knocked down on Thursday. Ringo Starr and Bruce Springsteen canceled concerts.