Outgoing Governor Pat McCrory said he would call a special session of the legislature, but blamed Democrats for not completing a similar deal earlier.
There have been rumors of a deal along the same outlines as the one under consideration now for months, involving a mutual disarmament by Charlotte and the General Assembly, but none of them have come to fruition. Particularly staunch opposition has come from some Democrats who opposed a deal for reasons of both politics and policy.
As a matter of politics, repealing HB2 could have been a pre-election boon for Republicans, who rushed the bill into law only to encounter massive resistance, including costly national boycotts, and a negative response to the law statewide. The state law not only overturned local nondiscrimination ordinances, it also dictated that transgender people use the bathroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. In addition, it barred cities in North Carolina from enacting their own minimum wages.
As a matter of policy, opponents of the repeal deal argued that Charlotte would be sending the wrong message by removing its LGBT non-discrimination ordinance, since many cities around the country have similar rules. A mutual-repeal deal would apparently return the state to the status quo ante, which Charlotte’s city council had previously decided was inadequate.
But the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, two organizations that have been on the frontline of the HB2 battle, issued statements hailing the deal on Monday. While many North Carolina Democrats were taken by surprise by the deal, the groups had apparently been involved in discussion.
“Governor-elect Cooper has briefed us on a deal he brokered with state lawmakers to reach a complete and total repeal of HB2,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “It's time for state lawmakers to repeal HB2 and begin repairing the harm this bill has done to people and the damage it has done to North Carolina's reputation and economy."
Chris Sgro, who is executive director of Equality NC and an openly gay state representative, said, “The Charlotte City Council and mayor did the right thing by passing their ordinance—HB2 is wrong. Since its passage, the deeply discriminatory HB2 has hurt our economy and people. Now, the General Assembly must fully repeal HB2 so that we can start the necessary talks for protecting LGBTQ people and bring back businesses across the state.”
The joint statement noted that Charlotte city council opened the door to passing a new nondiscrimination measure once HB2 is repealed. “The City of Charlotte is deeply dedicated to protecting the rights of all people from discrimination and, with House Bill 2 repealed, will be able to pursue that priority for our community,” the council said in a statement.
In November, Governor McCrory, a Republican and former mayor of Charlotte who signed the bill and then became its public face, narrowly lost reelection. Cooper is a moderate, but he was critical of HB2 and refused to defend it in court. The Department of Justice and several civil-rights groups have sued the state over the law. Many artists have boycotted the state, major employers have canceled, postponed, or curtailed employment expansions, and other organizations have withdrawn events from the state—including the 2017 NBA All-Star Game and some NCAA and ACC sports tournaments. Estimates of the cost to the state economy range in the hundreds of millions of dollars.