A handful of Republican lawmakers have begun calling for changes to North Carolina’s House Bill 2, days after the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference pulled major sports events from the state in response to the LGBT law.
Rep. Gary Pendleton of Raleigh said Thursday he’d like to see a special legislative session within weeks to repeal parts of HB2. He joins Sen. Tamara Barringer of Cary and Sen. Rick Gunn of Burlington, who made similar statements this week.
“I think we ought to go back into session for a day or two and definitely revisit it,” Pendleton told The News & Observer, adding that any changes still must prevent men from entering women’s bathrooms. “I wouldn’t vote to repeal it unless we passed a law that covered the safety of bathrooms and showers and all that.”
Pendleton says he’s talked to other Republican lawmakers who’d support revising HB2, but he’s not sure they’d form a majority of the legislature.
“Even if it doesn’t pass, at least the people will know that a certain group of people tried,” Pendleton said, adding that some Republicans likely would still vote against any changes. “Some people are so far out there on the right that they don’t care.”
Sen. Jeff Tarte, a Cornelius Republican, told the Observer Wednesday that he would like to get both sides together to make changes.
“It’s going to continue to get worse if we do nothing,” he said. “Doing nothing is not a good option. Simply waiting for the courts to mandate what we do, that’s bad public policy.”
HB2, signed in March by Gov. Pat McCrory, nullified a Charlotte ordinance that would have expanded protections for LGBT individuals. It also requires people in government-run facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
The NBA in July moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over the law. Entertainment acts such as Bruce Springsteen have scrapped North Carolina appearances, and PayPal canceled plans to bring 400 jobs to Charlotte. Now Cary, Durham, Greensboro, Greenville, Charlotte and other cities are losing college-sports championships.
“I’m opposed to giving men access to women’s and girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms, but I am also concerned about the impact HB2 is having on our state and the Triad – especially NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference athletic championship events – and I think it is time we give serious consideration to modifying or possibly repealing HB2,” Gunn said in a statement.
Barringer expressed similar sentiments about bathrooms but more firmly came out in favor of repealing HB2, citing the unforeseen economic effects.
“It is time for the federal courts to protect women’s and girls’ privacy and strike down President Obama’s bathroom sharing mandate,” Gunn wrote, referring to states challenging the Obama administration’s directive to school districts to expand transgender students’ access to bathrooms and locker rooms.
Pendleton didn’t vote for HB2 in March, but he also didn’t vote against it, instead getting an excused absence from the special session along with two other Republicans.
“When I saw it was coming up, I didn’t go to the session,” he said, adding that he instead wanted state leaders to sue the city of Charlotte for overstepping its authority in passing a nondiscrimination ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice. “I wasn’t going to go down there and get harassed and harassed and harassed to vote for something I just didn’t want to vote for.”
Pendleton said most Republicans thought HB2 would only address the bathroom issue. “When they got there, here was this thing with about 15 other things tacked on it,” he said.
He said he joined other lawmakers in the short session to seek a compromise revising HB2. But Democrats refused to support anything other than a full repeal, and some Republicans also wouldn’t back the compromise.
Pendleton says no one expected the level of economic losses HB2 has brought to North Carolina. “I think it’s gone further than most people would have dreamed it would,” he said.
He says he thinks HB2 will cost him some votes in November’s election, when he faces Democrat Cynthia Ball. She issued a news release earlier Thursday calling for Pendleton to back a full repeal of the law, which she says he “has always been a dedicated supporter of.”
Asked Thursday if there was a point where he would take another look at the law, McCrory told a Charlotte luncheon he “has never stopped working on a compromise.”
As he has previously told the Observer, McCrory said he had an agreement with the NBA and Republican leaders to make changes to HB2 in a bid to keep the All-Star Game but unnamed Republicans and Attorney General Roy Cooper, his gubernatorial opponent, stymied the deal.
A Cooper spokesman has previously said that the attorney general “has consistently said that the NBA should stay in North Carolina and that we should repeal this discriminatory law.”