Advocacy groups and legislators are picking sides on the new House Bill 2 repeal compromise filed late Wednesday by two Republicans and two Democrats in the House.
House Bill 186 would repeal HB2 while allowing towns and cities to pass nondiscrimination ordinances with a few limitations, including that they would not be allowed to regulate bathroom access in private facilities.
Several LGBT advocacy groups quickly voiced opposition to the bill. On Thursday morning, their main opponent in the fight over HB2 – the N.C. Values Coalition – also blasted the compromise.
“Our lawmakers should reject Rep. (Chuck) McGrady’s misguided bill that does nothing to stop cities from passing the same unlawful, coercive ordinances that started this debate in Charlotte and leaves the state without a policy on privacy in bathrooms,” Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald said in a news release. “Lawmakers should stand by HB2 because it is the only way to ensure that privacy, dignity, and common sense rule in North Carolina.”
The state’s main lobbying group for restaurants and hotels is supporting the proposal. The hospitality industry has been hit hard by the cancellation of concerts, sporting events and business conferences caused by HB2.
“We commend the sponsors of HB186 for coming forth with a bipartisan approach to solving a complex issue,” N.C. Restaurant & Lodging Association president and CEO Lynn Minges said in a news release Thursday. “We believe this bill is a good start toward finding common ground, and we are encouraged that there will be continued collaboration from all sides involved.”
The N.C. Chamber issued a statement Thursday saying it’s “encouraged (by) and supportive of House Bill 186 as a bipartisan effort to move toward a resolution.”
N.C. Realtors, the trade group representing real-estate agents, also praised the bill, saying it “believes this compromise is reasonable and protects all citizens of North Carolina.”
“We are especially happy to see that specific language has been included in the bill which expressly and explicitly prohibits anti-discrimination in housing decisions,” N.C. Realtors CEO Andrea Bushnell said in a news release.
Senate leader Phil Berger addressed the proposal after the Senate session on Thursday, saying he was pleased that efforts at finding a compromise are continuing. But he returned the volley to Gov. Roy Cooper, whom Berger has blamed for blocking a compromise in December.
Cooper and Senate Democrats opposed that approach because it was not a simple appeal of HB2, but had conditions attached.
“I would note that the governor has already dismissed that out of the gate,” he said of the new bill. “I will remind you, we tried back in December and the governor killed that one as well. ... He is mainly responsible for the fact that we still have HB2 in North Carolina. It’s interesting that he has decided within hours, probably minutes, after that bill was filed to basically dismiss it.”
“We will see whether or not (the new proposal) actually has legs on the House side,” he added. “... We’ll see what the bill looks like if and when it comes over from the House.”
The American Civil Liberties Union joined LGBT groups and the Values Coalition in the opposition camp on Thursday.
“Rather than repeal HB2 entirely, this proposal still sanctions discrimination against transgender people and makes it harder for local governments to protect LGBT people under the law,” ACLU North Carolina policy director Sarah Gillooly said in a news release. “Treating LGBT people as second-class citizens whose rights and equal protection can be put to a vote is disgraceful and will not undo the ongoing harm HB2 has brought to North Carolina and its people.”
Gillooly’s statement is referring to a provision in the bill that would allow residents to petition against a local nondiscrimination ordinance, forcing a ballot referendum on the ordinance if they collect enough signatures.
In the House, the bill continued to pick up co-sponsors from both political parties on Thursday.
As of 12:30 p.m., 19 legislators were listed as co-sponsors, with 14 Republicans and five Democrats. Most of the GOP supporters are from urban or suburban districts.
Republican co-sponsors are: Reps. Chuck McGrady of Hendersonville, Ted Davis of Wilmington, Nelson Dollar of Cary, John Bradford of Mecklenburg County, Andy Dulin of Charlotte, John Faircloth of High Point, John Fraley of Mooresville, Holly Grange of Wilmington, Jon Hardister of Greensboro, Craig Horn of Union County, Linda Johnson of Kannapolis, Chris Malone of Wake Forest, Greg Murphy of Greenville and Stephen Ross of Burlington.
Democratic co-sponsors are: Reps. Marvin Lucas of Spring Lake, Ken Goodman of Rockingham, Ed Hanes of Winston-Salem, George Graham of Kinston and Rodney Moore of Charlotte.
The bill was to be referred to a House committee on Monday night.