One of the stranger twists in the uproar over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 is that its Republican backers keep defending it as a “common sense” law. In truth, the so-called “bathroom bill” has to rank among the state’s weirdest pieces of legislation.
The law addresses a problem that doesn’t exist – men claiming to be transgender women so they can peep and prey in women’s bathrooms – but it’s created a real problem that its backers refuse to see – damage to the state’s image and economy.
Indeed, Gov. Pat McCrory has taken the position that the new law really doesn’t do much of anything and its sweeping threat to gay rights and state commerce are fictions created by the media.
Into this strange environment, Roy Cooper, the N.C. attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor, has brought a dose of what’s desperately needed – real common sense. On Tuesday, Cooper said his office will not defend HB2 against a court challenge filed Monday. He couldn’t stand up for the law, he noted, because it contradicts the nondiscrimination policy his office has followed since 2001.
Cooper called the law which appears to allow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity “a national embarrassment” that “will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger, whose decision to force HB2 through in a one-day special session last week makes him chiefly responsible for this fiasco, said Cooper is the one who is failing to meet his responsibilities and should resign.
Meanwhile, the economic fallout mounts. New York City, Seattle, San Francisco and West Palm Beach banned their employees from non-essential travel to North Carolina in response to the law. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, and Equality NC, released a letter from more than 80 CEOs and business leaders calling for the law’s repeal. The High Point Furniture show, the largest of its kind, announced customers were pulling out of the April 16 event.
The bill was conceived as an election-year wedge issue that Republicans thought would rally their base and put Cooper on the defensive. Instead it has embarrassed thoughtful Republicans and set back the economic development that Republican leaders say is their top priority. McCrory, Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore should admit HB2 missed its mark and is causing far more problems than it solves. They should agree to revise or repeal the law as the first order of business when the legislature convenes April 25. That would be the common sense response to this legislative nonsense.