Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, and the leaders of the legislature’s Republican majority, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, along with business leaders working behind the scenes, forged a decidedly imperfect compromise Thursday: HB2 was repealed, the state retains control of rules governing multiple occupancy restrooms and showers, and there will be a moratorium on local ordinances regulating public accommodations or private employment practices (anti-discrimination laws) until December 1, 2020.
Pro-HB2 groups were opposed, having no concern about lost business or the damage to the state’s image as long as their hard-right ideology was upheld. They were thankfully in the minority. The ACLU and progressives think giving in on local ordinances and the regulation of showers and restrooms reinforced discrimination against those in the LGBT community, and they had a point. There’s no satisfaction in a deal on a discriminatory law that leaves the targets of discrimination feeling unheard and unprotected.
But this compromise was needed and, given the fear-mongering on one side and the outrage on the other, it was inevitable that any agreement would bring objections from both sides. Cooper made the deal he needed to make with Republicans. The state, already battered by the HB2 fallout was going to lose more business. And the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference had made it clear that there would be no more championships played in North Carolina as long as HB2 existed.
Moore and Berger, feeling intense heat from business leaders and sensing a fading in public support for their position, needed this deal every bit as much as anyone else. The HB2 issue had become for North Carolina what the Confederate flag issue was for South Carolina, and the consequences in lost business and lost face were similar.
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Make no mistake. Thanks to a hasty (one day) action to pass HB2 to overturn a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of the gender with which they identify — something they’d been doing for decades anyway — North Carolina suffered huge casualties. This was a national embarrassment, courtesy of Republican leaders in the General Assembly amateurishly flexing their muscle to please their hard-right base.
Cooper might have let them continue to twist in the wind, considering that he won the governorship despite Donald Trump carrying North Carolina and McCrory’s incumbency, but he did the right thing. The state’s best interest won out. Thursday brought not a happy ending to HB2, but an ending nonetheless.