Just over one year after North Carolina Republicans rammed through a transphobic "bathroom bill" in a last-minute legislative session, lawmakers from that state have announced plans to repeal the notorious House Bill 2.
The announcement came at an evening press conference held by state Sen. Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, on Wednesday. The legislature is scheduled to vote on the measure, officially HB 142, on Thursday.
But don't cheer just yet, because the replacement leaves a great deal to be desired.
The proposed legislation would repeal the bathroom bill, put access to multiple-occupancy restrooms under state control as it was pre-HB2, and, crucially, prevent local governments from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances until 2020. That's what Charlotte did last year when it affirmed that, among other things, transgender people could use bathrooms that aligned with their gender identities—a move which prompted state lawmakers to pass HB2 shortly thereafter.
In other words, trans people won't be explicitly barred from using the right bathroom that aligns with their der identity, but they won't have any legal protection to do so either–and LGBTQ people won't be given any further legal protections for at least a few more years.
"l support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow," Governor Roy Cooper said in a statement. "It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.
LGBTQ and civil rights activists, however, aren't celebrating.
"Lawmakers must reject this disgraceful backroom deal that uses the rights of LGBT people as a bargaining chip,” Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina said in a statement:
“One year after HB2 was introduced and signed into law in just 12 hours, it is shameful that legislative leaders and North Carolina’s governor are once again rushing through a discriminatory anti-LGBT measure without proper vetting or an opportunity for public input. The way to undo HB2’s profound damage to North Carolina and its people has always been a full, clean repeal, but this proposal would keep anti-LGBT provisions of the law in place and continue to single out and target transgender people. Lawmakers must vote against this proposal, and should it reach his desk, Governor Cooper should withdraw his support and veto it."
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, agreed. "The initiative is not a repeal," he said. "It's doubling down on the discrimination that HB2 exacts — it's HB2.0. It doesn't allow municipalities to protect people from discrimination till 2020."
The HB2 repeal effort had largely stalled over the past year, even after former Republican Governor Pat McCrory—who'd signed the measure into law—lost his reelection bid, likely thanks in no small part to his support of the bathroom bill (McCrory has tweeted his support for the compromise repeal). However, an ultimatum from the NCAA which threatened to pull all college sports tournaments from the state until 2022 should the bill remains in place appears to have helped re-energize repeal efforts. It remains unclear how the NCAA will respond to HB142.
A recent estimate from the Associated Press projected North Carolina stands to loose nearly $4 billion dollars from blowback to HB2 over the coming dozen years, if the law isn't repealed.