Cooper has checkmate on HB2 crusade

N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.
N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.

Republican leaders on Jones Street engineered the catastrophic HB2 bill legalizing discrimination against transgender people with regard to bathroom access, and tossed in some other right-wing, dumb ideas. Oh, they thought they’d taught ol’ Charlotte, doggone liberal big city don’t you know, a lesson after Queen City council members allowed such access with their own resolution.

But the GOP handiwork backfired, with the state losing thousands of job prospects and millions of dollars in conventions, and finally business leaders brokered a compromise that repealed HB2 but kept control of who could use public bathrooms under the state and prevented local governments from passing their own nondiscrimination ordinances until the end of 2020. That was the GOP’s way of saving face, and while the intent of the action was honest on the part of business leaders, it still was a decidedly imperfect deal. An outright repeal, no strings attached, was the best option.

Republican leaders, who’ve demonstrated clumsy, inept leadership constantly since taking control of the General Assembly in 2011, wouldn’t hear of that, of course.

But now Cooper has GOP chiefs reeling and fuming. The governor has settled a federal lawsuit, subject to a likely approval from a judge, over transgender access to public bathrooms, a suit filed after HB2 went into effect last year.

The settlement would allow those who are transgender to use the bathrooms of their choice in public buildings that are under the control of agencies under Cooper, which is most of them. That means most state buildings in Raleigh, state parks, historic sites, etc.

It’s wise to bring the suit to an end, of course. But Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, who helped to humiliate North Carolina around the globe with their HB2 shenanigans, were going up the wall about the settlement. In part, because they’d still like to have HB2 in place to thumb their noses at cities and Democrats, and in part because in dealing with Cooper, a former legislator himself and state attorney general for 16 years, they’re outmatched in experience and savvy and there’s likely nothing they can do about this, though they’ll surely try.

Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for North Carolina, about the only thing they could try would be to pass another version of HB2, which Cooper would veto and they would override, at which point jobs would start to disappear and things like the Amazon headquarters project with potentially 50,000 jobs would surely be lost.

But don’t count on good sense prevailing. Cooper has just gone game, set and match on Republicans in the General Assembly, and they don’t like it one bit. But they’re stuck, because the public already has seen the consequences of their foolishness. Do they really want to put it on display again?