City Council members debated for an hour Thursday how to respond to HB2, seeking to protect Durham’s LGBT residents but not draw state legislators’ ire.
The debate followed comments from five people from a grassroots campaign that has been emailing City Council members asking them to stand up against HB2 by passing a local non-discrimination ordinance. Elected officials had responded that such action would be futile.
On Thursday, however, Mayor Bill Bell outlined a proposed strategy as the city waits for two related cases to work through the courts, one of which is a Virginia case expected to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in March.
Bell said city officials will continue to support their legislative representatives push to get HB2 repealed and write to leaders of the General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper asking them to repeal the law.
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Bell also said he would like to work with mayors of some of the state’s largest cities on a movement in which Durham and other municipalities pledge not to pass local anti-discrimination ordinances if HB2 was repealed in an effort to ease any concerns by the General Assembly.
City Council members Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson objected to that strategy.
Reece and Johnson said they had concerns about that action that would ultimately do nothing to protect residents in the city from discrimination.
Bell responded that people aren’t protected under the current circumstances, but at least such an action might address the boycotts and other economic development challenges associated with HB2.
The council does not typically take action at its work sessions, and Bell’s proposal failed when the council deadlocked 3-3 to suspend the rules.
Bell, Cora Cole-McFadden and Eddie Davis voted to suspend the rules. Johnson, Reece, and Don Moffitt voted against moving forward.
Council member Steve Schewel was absent.