As North Carolina continues to reel from the ongoing fallout following the passage of HB2—the so-called "bathroom bill—Governor Pat McCrory this week issued an executive order that modified elements of the new legislation in an effort to appease the steady drumbeat of criticism he, and his state, have received since the bill's passage last month.
In a release posted to his official government website, McCrory says he feels "there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion, and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina" as a result of his signing of HB2. Accordingly, his executive order will "expand […] state equal employment opportunity policy to clarify that sexual orientation and gender identity are included." It also urges legislators to "reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in North Carolina state courts."
Critics, however, remain unswayed by Gov. McCrory's announcement.
ACLU of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston described the development as "a poor effort to save face" in a statement:
[The Governor's actions] fall far short of correcting the damage done when he signed into law the harmful House Bill 2, which stigmatizes and mandates discrimination against gay and transgender people. With this executive order, LGBT individuals still lack legal protections from discrimination, and transgender people are still explicitly targeted by being forced to use the wrong restroom.
The ACLU of North Carolina is currently involved in a recently-filed lawsuit against the Governor over the law.
Frustration with the optics of McCrory's action is echoed by the editorial board of The Charlotte Observer, who—in a fiery op-ed—compare the Governor's actions to the bluster of the Wizard of Oz (in giant floating head form) while urging readers to "pay attention to the man behind the curtain.
Citing comments from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce that the executive order shows "North Carolina is an open and welcoming state," the Observer editorial board writes:
No, the governor’s actions don’t demonstrate that. They demonstrate the opposite – that North Carolina is not a welcoming state – and that McCrory is flailing in the heat of an election year. The legislature dumped a bad bill on McCrory’s desk. He signed it and is now looking for a way out. State employee protections are worth something, but bold leadership requires more.
Joining the oppositional chorus is North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat running against McCrory in November. In a statement posted to Twitter, Cooper calls on the Governor to repeal the law entirely, describing the executive action as "a day late, and a veto short."
Cooper has already declared that he will not defend the law in court.