The NBA and the Charlotte Hornets, in a statement released Thursday, say they do not support proposed revisions to House Bill 2 currently before the state legislature, a potentially serious snag to any compromise on the controversial law.
State lawmakers are considering revisions in the final days of their session, including a draft that was leaked earlier this week, but the fate of any changes remained uncertain.
League Commissioner Adam Silver has said the 2017 NBA All-Star Game is in danger of being pulled from Charlotte without changes to HB2.
Despite reports of the league’s involvement in working through changes to HB2, the league and Charlotte Hornets say no decision has been made regarding the All-Star Game.
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“We have been engaged in dialogue with numerous groups at the city and state levels, but we do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature,” according to a statement provided to the Observer Thursday evening.
The league reiterated its commitment to its “guiding principles of inclusion, mutual respect and equal protections for all,” and that “constructive engagement with all sides is the right path forward.”
“There has been no new decision made regarding the 2017 NBA All-Star Game,” the statement read.
The NBA first called into question its decision to keep the All-Star Game in Charlotte the day after Gov. Pat McCrory signed HB2 into law in March. The league said it didn’t know what impact the law would have on its “ability to successfully host” the event, sparking months of speculation.
Silver has said multiple times since the bill was passed that the league is against it. He has reiterated that the league is working with local government and business leaders to craft some kind of compromise and that there is “strong interest” in keeping the game here.
The All-Star Game is slated for February at Time Warner Cable Arena.
On Thursday, House Republicans and Democrats met separately in private sessions to determine whether they could agree on revisions to the law before adjourning. Lawmakers had been aiming toward wrapping up the session this weekend or next week.
The wide-ranging HB2 requires people in government facilities to use the bathroom matching the gender on their birth certificate.
House Majority Leader Mike Hager, a Republican from Rutherfordton, said GOP members were divided over potential provisions in a revised HB2. Proposals making the rounds this week would restore an avenue for employment-discrimination lawsuits that HB2 had blocked, while also adding stronger penalties for crimes that occur in bathrooms. One proposal would allow people to obtain certification of having undergone sex-reassignment surgery if they had the surgery in a state that didn’t allow them to amend their birth certificates.
Hager said the House wouldn’t move forward with a bill until there is clearer consensus and acknowledged that might not happen in time for the end of session.
Senate Democrats and a few House Democrats met Thursday for about an hour with McCrory in the Executive Mansion in Raleigh. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue of Raleigh declined to give specifics of the meeting with the governor.
Blue said McCrory did not specifically ask Democrats to support a compromise measure. Asked whether Democrats were split on such support, Blue said, “The sense of our caucus all along has been that HB2 is a big mistake.”
McCrory’s meeting with Democrats could signal that Republicans would need Democratic votes to pass any revisions.
Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat who represents Hoke, Robeson and Scotland counties, was asked whether House Democrats were going to help House Republicans pass some sort of bill related to HB2. “I’ll just say we’ve got differences of opinions, and leave it there,” he said.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are taking steps to set aside a half-million dollars for the legal defense of House Bill 2, which limits legal protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The funds received preliminary approval from a Senate committee Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group, joined other HB2 critics at a morning news conference. They want the bill repealed, not revised.
Griffin called proposed revisions “a ridiculous proposal that would do nothing more than offer cheap political cover.”
He said draft revisions “are nothing more than doubling down on HB2 and making it worse.”
“Anyone who supports this phony fix is not a friend or ally to the LGBT community,” he said.
There has been a flurry of discussion about HB2 since draft revisions were leaked Tuesday.
HB2 was the legislative response to a Charlotte ordinance that would have extended anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity and would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom or locker room of the gender with which they identify.
Legislators could find themselves in a political bind. LGBT activists say they’ll remember at the polls any member who votes for anything short of full repeal.
And Republicans are ready to blame anybody who doesn’t support a compromise.
“Any Democrat standing with the Human Rights Campaign and other out-of-state liberal interest groups by refusing any compromise is attempting to drive the NBA All-Star Game from North Carolina,” said Ricky Diaz, a McCrory campaign spokesman.