Now that the Charlotte City Council has rescinded the ordinance that prompted Republican legislative leaders to pass the infamous mistake known as HB2, those GOP mischief-makers may indeed repeal the law. A special session has been called for Wednesday.
Roy Cooper, governor-elect, apparently worked behind the scenes to attempt to put HB2 and the surrounding firestorm behind him and the state before he takes office. It’s unfortunate, of course, that the Charlotte council had to back up on something that was a perfectly reasonable protection for people who were doing no harm. But the council and Cooper acted responsibly, knowing that Republican lawmakers were prepared to see tumbleweeds blowing down the main streets of cities before admitting they’d made a horrendous mistake.
Let’s hope more trickery isn’t in the minds of legislative leaders angry that their foolishness proved catastrophic for North Carolina. Senate leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Tim Moore and Gov. Pat McCrory already are engaging in a deceptive line of logic that blames Cooper and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts for the whole mess. In the Berger-Moore-McCrory world, it was Cooper and Roberts who created the problem because, according to one of the most ridiculous statements ever to come from Berger and Moore, they wanted to “drive out-of-state money into the governor’s race.”
Distorting the issue
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The truth, of course, was the opposite. Berger, Moore and McCrory thought HB2 would stir their conservative base. That’s why Berger and Moore rushed to pass HB2 in a day and McCrory signed it immediately. The GOP leaders engaged in demagoguery, casting the Charlotte ordinance as an attempt to open the way for male predators to prey on victims in women’s bathrooms. In fact, it was an attempt to protect transgender people in allowing them to use the bathroom of the sex with which they identify, something they have been doing for decades anyway.
But Berger and Moore wanted to use it for maximum political advantage. Not only did they distort the ordinance’s intent, they threw into HB2 a provision to prevent all local governments from instituting anti-discrimination laws to protect those in the LGBT community. The results were catastrophic in terms of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs lost as North Carolina reeled in rejection from everyone from musicians to academic conferences to the NBA (no All-Star Game in Charlotte) to the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference (playoffs moved).
And the political results were bad for McCrory. His re-election was at least in part a referendum on HB2. The governor lost to Cooper, who had been against the law all along.
Berger and Moore are incapable of admitting a mistake, of course, so they’ll undoubtedly try to throw some kind of bill in to replace HB2 in order to make it look like they won, anyway. But the truth is, they can’t erase their disgrace.
McCrory clumsily defended the law throughout his campaign, and so he earned the responsibility voters assigned to him. The governor, who as a former mayor of Charlotte should have known better, just never seemed to grasp that HB2 has had a serious economic impact on North Carolina, and has wounded the state’s reputation as a moderate Southern state.
McCrory should have stood up against GOP lawmakers to preserve the state’s reputation. He could have won support from North Carolinians for political gumption. What did he have to lose? As it turned out, everything.
North Carolina has also lost a great deal, but with sound leadership it can now begin to recover.