RALEIGH After more than a year under a national spotlight of public relations fallout, protests, false starts and failed deals, Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper brokered a deal to repeal the notorious House Bill 2 on Thursday with bipartisan majorities in the N.C. General Assembly.The vehicle employed in the effort, House Bill 142, began life in the N.C. House as an entirely unrelated bill regarding oversight of licensing boards that was instead refashioned to repeal the much maligned “bathroom bill.” It asserts the regulation of multi-occupancy bathroom and changing facilities as the sole domain of the state and enacts a three-year moratorium on local governments issuing regulations on employment practices and public accommodations.”Today, we repealed House Bill 2,” said Cooper in a press conference after signing the repeal legislation. “We begin to end discrimination. We begin to bring back jobs and sporting events. And we begin to repair our reputation. It is an important step, but it cannot be the only step. This law I’m signing today is not just about North Carolina’s reputation or jobs and sports. It’s about working to end discrimination.”Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain) and Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) were joined by Cooper in wrangling votes for the deal as an ultimatum from the NCAA loomed on the horizon and a viable coalition emerged for the first time after nearly half a dozen failed attempts in as many months.”Compromise is difficult for both sides, but we are pleased this proposal fully protects safety and privacy by keeping men out of women’s bathrooms, and removes the distraction of H.B. 2 from North Carolina’s success story of outpacing the rest of the United States in job growth and being a national leader in tax cuts and reform,” said Berger in a press release.As for the notion that the NCAA deadline was the motive force behind state legislation, Moore demurred.”There was concern about was the deadline with the NCAA pushing this and I will tell you for me it was not,” said Moore in a post-vote press conference. “Look, when you know you got the votes to pass a bill around here, I don’t care what it is, you put the bill on the floor and vote on it then.”While House Bill 142 achieved bipartisan majorities in both chambers, it also united opposite sides of the ideological spectrum in opposing the deal. The N.C. Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Equality NC and the Human Rights Campaign blasted Cooper for selling out the LGBT cause, while the N.C. Values Coalition and Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest saw no need to reverse a “compassionate, reasonable law.””If H.B. 2 was right to begin with, which I believe it was, then why are we repealing it?,” said Forest in a statement. “If it is wrong, then why wait four years to fix it? Such ambiguity undercuts the legitimacy of a law that we have fought so hard to defend.”The divide within caucuses was apparent during floor debate in the House especially, as both Democrats and Republicans expressed disappointment in the process involved or the end result entailed by the compromise.”This bill still legislates restrooms,” said Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford). “Another reason why I cannot support this bill is there were no LGBT people at the table. They were completed left out of the discussion.”The criticism from some Republicans was perhaps even more pointed.”One thing that really saddens me about this whole business is the dirty politics that came up during this issue,” said Rep. Jeff Collins (R-Nash). “I think any bill that has to be passed by dirty tactics, is a dirty bill and I don’t want my hands on it at all. I realize this may have political repercussions for me; that’s fine. I have no political ambitions anyway. I’ve found the hard way that my trust in people has to be inversely proportional to the size of their political ambitions.”Sen. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), the architect of the original H.B. 2, said he strongly prefers a resolution to the controversy, but not one that compromises his principles.”In the name of peace this bill does two things,” asserted Bishop during Senate floor debate. “It retracts a clear answer on a new question: how should government balance a newly conceived idea about liberty to change gender versus rights of bodily privacy on a physiological basis where those two notions or interests may come into conflict? More significantly, it almost inescapably implies that 32 months hence handfuls of local officials can use government power to coerce people to embrace an ideology of sexual essence contrary to their values. It is in that sense a declaration of surrender.”The bipartisan dissents were not enough to sway a legislative coalition determined to remove the stigma associated with H.B. 2 in order to finally register some progress in alleviating the perceived economic and public relations consequences of the infamous bill.As for the NCAA, they are reserving judgement on whether or not the compromise is sufficient to allay their concerns. For more on the NCAA and their response, see B7.
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