Cooper says no to repeal bill, comparing transgender bathroom access to Civil Rights battle of the 1960s

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
Governor Roy Cooper speaks in the old House Chamber of the North Carolina State Capitol building in Raleigh

RALEIGH — As lawmakers prepare to return to Raleigh for Monday night session where a bipartisan bill to repeal H.B. 2 is expected to hear first reading, Governor Roy Cooper put out a press releases and video statement Sunday night saying no deal. Among other things, the bill requires that controversial local ordinances, like those extending multi-stalled bathroom access to transgender individuals, be put to a voter referendum within the community. In his statement Cooper compared it to African Americans’ fight for civil rights.”I have two concerns with this. First, it subjects the rights of the minority to a vote of the majority. It would be like putting the Civil Rights Act to a popular vote in cities in the South during the 1960’s. Except today, it would come with the perils of modern campaigns. Which is my second concern,” said Cooper.He drew an image for readers of aggressive campaigning, phone calls and TV ads leading up to such a referendum. He suggested instead that City Councils be required to pass such legislation as “majority-plus-one,” rather than by voters.According to Republicans, his comments reveal more about the governor’s motivations. As the two sides have battled over multiple repeal proposals, Cooper has tried appealing to business groups, asking them to pressure the legislature to repeal H.B. 2, which was passed by the Republican-led body in March and set N.C. up as ground zero over the fight for transgender access to multi-stalled bathrooms. He has repeatedly said that his goals are in the interest of the state’s economy.Now, the N.C. Retail and Lodging Association, the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and the NAIOP, a statewide group representing economic developers, have put their support behind H.B. 186 but Cooper said no after the ACLU and the NAACP said they would oppose it. “Tonight it became clear that Governor Cooper has neither the desire or ability to strike a deal on HB2. It is clear that he intends to pull the football away every time Republicans and Democrats get close. Voters need to wonder why,” NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse said in a statement released overnight. H.B. 186, is sponsored by two Republicans and two Democrats. It contains a full repeal of the controversial H.B. 2 law. It also enacts a statewide nondiscrimination policy, increases penalties for restroom crime, and allows local municipalities to pass their own nondiscrimination ordinances. Such ordinances could not apply to facilities not owned by the municipality, like private businesses or clubs. However Cooper, the ACLU, Lamda Legal and NAACP oppose the portion that required cities to put some provisions to a voter referendum if they are controversial. Any local ordinance expanding the protections to gender identity, or other groups beyond the bill’s statewide protections, must be put to a voter referendum. Opponents would have to present a “petition to override” signed by 10 percent of those who voted in the last municipal election and is presented within 10 days of the measure’s passage.That portion addresses concerns from December’s special session that if H.B. 2 is repealed without addressing local ordinances processes, then local laws like Charlotte’s, which started the battle last year, would pop up across the state without local voter input. This evening the N.C. General Assembly is scheduled to present the bill in question for first reading in the House. It is expected to be sent to committee for further debate.Business leaders, including the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, have come out in support of the measure after months of lobbying to get a repeal deal on the legislative floor. The N.C. Retail and Lodging Association has been among the groups hardest hit by boycotts and cancelled events. They have been working on the issue since Charlotte first proposed its original ordinance that started the controversy. “We commend the sponsors of H.B. 186 for coming forth with a bipartisan approach to solving a complex issue,” said Lynn Minges, the president and CEO of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association. “We believe this bill is a good start toward finding common ground and we are encouraged that there will be continued collaboration from all.”The bill may get more bipartisan support than it would have even a few months ago, as lawmakers and the entire state grows weary of the controversy. Two previous deals to repeal the bill were thwarted by Gov. Roy Cooper, who insisted that Democrat lawmakers only vote for a clean repeal with no strings or moratoriums. Cooper then proposed his own repeal measure that bolstered penalties for crimes in a public restroom, but still left what critics considered a major loophole that would allow potential predators to gain lawful access to women’s restrooms.”If Gov. Cooper’s proposed bill for repealing H.B.2 becomes law, it will create a state-sanctioned ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ policy in our bathrooms,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. “Heterosexual men will be able to access women’s showers and bathrooms by simply posing as a transgender individual. They will be able to watch women and children shower, or shower next to them. As long as the man doesn’t touch them, assault them or film them, no legal protection would be afforded the offended woman or child. Nothing.”Cooper’s proposal received Democrat support in the legislature, but Republicans considered it dead on arrival. H.B. 186 is the third item on the House’s agenda with session due to convene at 7 p.m.