Just what are those who are celebrating the setback for an HB2 repeal so happy about? Are they applauding the millions of dollars in business lost in North Carolina because of this law that eliminated anti-discrimination ordinances protecting gay and transgender people? Are the cheering the continuing damage to North Carolina’s image as progressive and welcoming state?
HB2 supporters got a boost when the Trump administration announced that it will roll back federal protections for transgender students. Legal experts say that will make it more difficult, if not impossible, for HB2 opponents to overturn the law in court.
The administration copped out to saying the issue is one for the states to handle, which will mean a multitude of laws in different states — some enlightened and including such protections, others — such as North Carolina — eliminating them.
What a sad and frustrating decision from the White House, or rather Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new Justice Department.
But what happens now in North Carolina, which has suffered disastrous consequences from HB2, a law that rejected a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the public bathrooms of the gender with which they identify? GOP lawmakers started this needless fight with Charlotte — and, for good measure, prevented all local governments from strengthening anti-discrimination ordinances of their own.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers has put forth a modification of HB2, House Bill 186. Though the measure would repeal HB2, it would still make it too difficult for local governments to install anti-discrimination ordinances and would not include sexual orientation and gender identity in a statewide nondiscrimination law. This law may be better than HB2, but is far from an outright repeal, which is what is needed.
Of course, debate over HB2 will continue, and with the Trump administration decision, GOP leaders in the General Assembly may feel all the more empowered to stick to their misfiring guns. But celebrations regarding Trump’s siding with discrimination may be premature: the American Civil Liberties Union will press on to the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of a Virginia teenager barred from the boys’ bathroom at his school. The ACLU is backing his suit against a school board, arguing that federal anti-discrimination laws protect him.
The North Carolina General Assembly could, of course, just do the right thing and banish HB2 and begin the rebuilding of North Carolina’s reputation. That will take time, and the economic losses likely won’t be reversed soon. But at least lawmakers would be making a positive and not a punitive step in governing.