Liberal groups are declaring victory this week after Gov. Pat McCrory conceded defeat, but they disagree on whether House Bill 2 was the main reason he lost.
The Human Rights Campaign, a national LGBT advocacy group, was in Raleigh Wednesday for a victory lap and says exit polling shows HB2 was the top issue for many voters who rejected McCrory.
“It truly is a watershed moment for our movement,” HRC President Chad Griffin said Wednesday during a meeting with The News & Observer’s editorial board. “It’s so important nationally for the message this sends to other politicians.”
McCrory has faced a national backlash for signing HB2 in March, striking down local governments’ nondiscrimination ordinances and requiring transgender people in public facilities to use the bathroom that corresponds to their birth certificate.
Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP, says that while HB2 played a role in the election, the seeds of McCrory’s defeat were planted well before this year. Barber led Moral Monday protests throughout McCrory’s term that sometimes included civil disobedience and arrests.
“The movement around things like healthcare, living wages and voting rights was critical in terms of the shift in public confidence,” Barber said this week. “The things that the Moral Monday movement lifted up, I think, were critical in people taking a second look at him regardless of party.”
While the Human Rights Campaign and the NAACP are celebrating Democrat Roy Cooper’s victory in the governor’s race, both groups say their fights are far from over.
Barber says Moral Mondays will continue – starting next Tuesday during the legislature’s special session to allocate money for Hurricane Matthew relief. The NAACP is worried that legislators might try to add two seats to the N.C. Supreme Court to offset Democrat Mike Morgan’s election, and a Moral Monday event will lobby lawmakers to leave the court alone.
Barber notes that his group began its actions at the legislature in 2007, when Democrats were in charge, and he says the NAACP’s events will continue regardless of who’s in power.
“We recognize that there is always going to be a need for a moral call for people of both parties to remember our deepest moral and religious values, not just partisan values,” he said.
The NAACP joined with Human Rights Campaign and others in calling for a repeal of HB2 – a move Cooper can’t make without the legislature’s support.
Chris Sgro, whose group Equality North Carolina works closely with HRC, says he thinks McCrory’s defeat could persuade GOP lawmakers to take another look at HB2.
“I do think the election results will pop the bubble that exists around Jones Street,” he said. “This session is going to feel different. Leadership is going to have to move toward a place of responsibility on this”
And if the law stays in place, the LGBT groups say they’ll gear up for the special legislative elections scheduled for November 2017 in districts that will be redrawn under a federal court order.
“If HB2 is still the law of the land when the special elections come about, I have no doubt that it will be the central issue that motivates voters,” Griffin said.