Legislative leaders continued to negotiate potential changes to House Bill 2 Wednesday afternoon as House Speaker Tim Moore announced an unusual evening session, then adjourned until Thursday without taking action.
House Rules Chairman David Lewis told The News & Observer that HB2 was the reason for the night session.
Both House and Senate Republicans held closed-door caucus meetings last Wednesday afternoon. After adjourning the formal session at 7 p.m., Moore returned to his office without speaking to reporters.
The movement on HB2 comes ahead of a deadline Thursday from the NCAA to make changes to the controversial LGBT law or lose the ability to host sports championships through 2022.
Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue said Wednesday afternoon that he, Gov. Roy Cooper and Republican leaders have been negotiating “over the past 48 hours in a joint effort to find common ground and repeal House Bill 2.” He says the talks are “expected to continue this evening.”
“We have been dealing with varying philosophical differences on a wide range of points related to House Bill 2 itself and various compromise proposals,” Blue in a news release. “This is too important and we can’t throw in the towel on this.”
But the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign quickly blasted a rumored compromise that involved a multi-year ban on local governments passing nondiscrimination ordinances.
“The rumored HB2 ‘deal’ does nothing more than double down on discrimination and would ensure North Carolina remains the worst state in the nation for LGBTQ people,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a news release Wednesday evening. “The consequences of this hateful law will only continue without full repeal of HB2. Sellouts cave under pressure. Leaders fight for what’s right.”
Wednesday’s action follows a news conference Tuesday evening in which Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said they are willing to agree “in principle” to House Bill 2 changes they say were proposed last week by Gov. Roy Cooper – but the Democratic governor says there are “still issues to be worked out.”
Moore and Berger said Tuesday that they were surprised that Cooper did not agree to the terms of a compromise. They were later seen walking to a meeting at the governor’s mansion.
HB2 bans cities, towns and counties from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. Berger indicated that the proposed changes to HB2 would allow local governments to enact ordinances but only with the protected classifications established in federal law. Those classifications don’t explicitly include sexual orientation or gender identity.
The proposal would repeal HB2 but would ban local governments, universities and school boards from setting bathroom access policies similar to the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that prompted HB2.
It also includes a provision to “protect the rights of conscience,” which would allow lawsuits against the state for anyone who believes their constitutional rights are threatened by government action. That provision has drawn comparisons to Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but Moore rejects that description. Cooper says he’ll oppose any bill with a provision similar to RFRA.