March 30 (UPI) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday signed into law a repeal of House Bill 2 — the controversial measure addressing transgender public restroom use — after the compromise package was passed earlier by the general assembly.
Under House Bill 142, the “bathroom bill” will go away in exchange for the loosening of state anti-discrimination ordinances that led Republicans to craft the bill in the first place.
“House Bill 2 has been a dark cloud over our great state of North Carolina,” Cooper said in a video message Thursday evening. “This is just a first step. I will continue to work hard for statewide protections.”
There are three main parts of the compromise — repealing HB2, giving the state authority over regulation of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities, and imposing a moratorium on local municipalities passing related ordinances until Dec. 1, 2020.
The repeal was approved by a vote of 70-48 in the House and 32-16 in the Senate before it was sent to Cooper.
“This is a significant compromise from all sides on an issue that has been discussed and discussed and discussed in North Carolina for a long period of time,” Senate leader Phil Berger told the Senate Rules Committee on Thursday. “It is something that I think satisfies some people, dissatisfies some people, but it’s a good thing for North Carolina.”
HB2 legally required all transgender students and state employees in North Carolina to use public restrooms for their birth sex. Opponents viewed the measure as discriminatory and it led to wide-scale condemnation and severe economic ramifications for the state — including the NBA moving this year’s all-star game from Charlotte and the National Collegiate Athletics Association stripping hosting duties from the city of Greensboro for this year’s men’s basketball tournament.
“I think this will address issues of who we are, how inclusive we are and whether everyone is valued,” Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue said.
Since its passage in March 2016, the law drew substantial criticism — as well as a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice — and has come close to repeal on a few occasions. It was expected to be written off the books in December, under the guidance of new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, but that repeal effort failed at the last minute.
For the better part of a year, HB2 represented an effective political standoff between the state government and the city of Charlotte. In February 2016, the city passed Charlotte Ordinance 7056, which barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in “public accommodations.” Republican leaders, viewing the law as an overreach in granting transgender freedoms, created HB2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, to block it.
In December, Charlotte abruptly scrapped its ordinance and outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory called for a special legislative session to follow suit with HB2. That session did nothing, largely out of Democrats’ concern for a GOP provision for a six-month ban on cities passing related ordinances. In other words, Republicans wanted assurances that Charlotte wouldn’t simply revive its law once HB2 was discarded — a concern that’s behind the 2020 moratorium outlined in Thursday’s agreement.
However, there were a number of opponents to Thursday’s deal — mostly progressives unhappy with making what they consider a watered-down and ineffectual deal involving the civil rights of the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
“This is not a repeal of HB2. Instead, they’re reinforcing the worst aspects of the law,” James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT Project, replied. “North Carolina lawmakers should be ashamed of this backroom deal that continues to play politics with the lives of LGBT North Carolinians.”