The General Assembly then passed, within a span of less than 12 hours, H.B. 2, which not only reversed Charlotte’s law but prevented any other city from passing an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance or raising its local minimum wage. The bill also mandated that transgender people in public facilities use the bathroom corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.
The bill passed Thursday repeals H.B. 2 wholly. But it would bars any new regulation of bathroom usage by any state authority other than the General Assembly. In other words, it would appear that while transgender people are not barred from using the restroom of their choice, neither can any governmental authority protect their right to do so. The bill also maintains the current preemption of city rules. Local governments would be barred from passing any ordinance that dealt with private employment practices or public accommodations—which is to say any LGBT law or minimum-wage increase—until 2020. The bill would add to a growing log of laws that the General Assembly has passed since 2010 to preempt local governments from enacting more progressive rules.
The legislation actually imposes more restrictions on cities than a repeal attempt that failed in December, during a special session days before Christmas that was called for the express purpose of repealing H.B. 2. That bill, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, a Republican, would have repealed H.B. 2 and instituted a six-month cooling-off period before any local governments could pass a new ordinance on public accommodations. Democrats countered with a clean repeal demand. Both bills failed as the legislature collapsed into bitter partisan recrimination. Cooper opposed that deal.
More recently, Democrats have proposed repeal packages that would institute a moratorium on new ordinances that would end, for example, 30 days after the current legislative session. Republicans have suggested repeal coupled with stricter penalties for bathroom-related crimes and a “conscience clause” for people with religious objections.
So why did the current attempt succeed where the previous ones failed? One answer is that the state has its back up against the wall. The NCAA has pulled events it was planning to host in North Carolina, including parts of the 2017 men’s basketball tournament, due to H.B. 2. The organization is setting its schedule through 2022 in April, and the deadline for North Carolina to act if it wants any of those events is said to be as soon as Thursday.
“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation,” Cooper said in a statement after 11 p.m. Wednesday. The state Democratic Party also endorsed the plan.