Durham News

Durham mayor to send letter urging repeal of HB2

Mayor Bill Bell announced a plan Monday to urge state lawmakers to repeal House Bill 2, despite not having majority support on the City Council.

A letter that Bell plans to send Tuesday recommends a compromise in which the N.C. General Assembly repeals the controversial law and imposes a moratorium on municipalities passing any anti-discrimination ordinances for six months or until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a related case.

“As a part of this compromise for repealing HB2, I am also encouraging my fellow colleagues who are mayors and/or members of the N.C. Metropolitan Mayors Coalition to also support this compromise and provide leadership on their respective councils to also support the proposal,” states the letter addressed to Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

Bell read the letter at the Durham City Council meeting Monday. The letter is only signed by Bell.

Late last year, state Democratic leaders rejected a move that would have repealed HB2 but imposed a six-month moratorium on cities passing anti-discrimination ordinances.

Bell said two things have since changed.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board on March 28. The Virginia case involves a transgender teen objecting to a bathroom and locker-room policy.

In addition, the NCAA and other athletic associations have made it clear that the repeal of HB2 will be an important factor in determining whether they will hold tournaments in the state, “which could have at least a five-year impact on North Carolina, its schools and its economy,” Bell’s letter states.

Bell’s action follows the City Council debating at a Feb. 9 work session how to respond to HB2, seeking to protect Durham’s LGBT residents but not draw Republican state legislators’ ire.

At the work session, Bell asked City Council members to support a strategy like the one outlined in his letter.

City Council members Charlie Reece and Jillian Johnson, however, objected to that strategy.

Reece and Johnson said the action would ultimately do nothing to protect residents in the city from discrimination.

Bell responded that people aren’t protected now, 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, but it can if five members agree to suspend the rules and take action. Bell’s proposal failed when the council deadlocked 3-3 to suspend the rules.

Councilman Steve Schewel, who wasn’t at the work session, said Monday he would like to retain the right for the city to pass a non-discrimination ordinance.

In other business

Also Monday, the City Council approved a rezoning that would allow up to 132 townhomes on 26 acres in southwest Durham.

The City Council unanimously approved national homebuilder Ryan Homes’ request to rezone three parcels on Ephesus Church Road near Creekside Elementary School.

The Durham Planning Commission voted 12-0 to recommend approval in December of the proposed development called Creekside Commons. Commissioners supported the rezoning after Ryan Homes reduced the density of the planned development proposal from 6.3 units per acres to 5 units per acre.

Opponents expressed concern about an increase in traffic in the area and overcrowding at Creekside Elementary, which houses some of its students in trailers.

Virginia Bridges: 919-829-8924, @virginiabridges