Democrats and Republicans propose a new H.B. 2 repeal bill

Business groups led support for the new measure

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson)

RALEIGH — A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the N.C. General Assembly filed a bill this week that contains a full repeal of the controversial H.B. 2 law. The law, passed a year ago in March, has pushed N.C. into the nationwide debate over transgender access to multi-stalled restrooms and changing facilities.The new bill, H.B. 186, filed this week by two Republicans and two Democrats, proposes to repeal H.B. 2, enacts a statewide nondiscrimination policy, increases penalties for restroom crime, and allows local municipalities to pass their own nondiscrimination ordinances; however, any such ordinances could not apply to facilities not owned by the municipality.Under the bill, any local ordinance expanding the protections to gender identity, or other groups beyond state protections, must be put to a voter referendum if a petition to override it is signed by 10 percent of those who voted in the last municipal election and is presented within 10 days of the measure’s passage.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.”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 NAIOP, a large trade group for commercial real estate and developers, also agreed.”H.B. 186 represents the best chance at reaching a compromise and we urge legislators to support this bipartisan solution that repeals H.B. 2 before more damage is done to our state’s economy and reputation,” the group said.However, the measure was immediately met with criticism from left-leaning groups who called it discriminatory.”Treating LGBT people as second-class citizens whose rights and equal protection can be put to a vote is disgraceful and will not undo the ongoing harm H.B. 2 has brought to North Carolina and its people,” said Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina.The bill may get more 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. This week’s proposal is getting support from both sides of the aisle. But despite business groups’ support, after the bill was filed N.C. NAACP executive director William Barber called for a “nationwide economic boycott” of N.C. by members of the NAACP in protest of it. Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) called on Cooper to pick a side.”For months, Roy Cooper has paid lip service to wanting to repeal H.B. 2, all while pandering to his far-left base to raise a beaucoup of cash, trash talking his own state and sabotaging every effort to repeal it,” Berger said. “It’s time for him to show some leadership as North Carolina’s governor, condemn William Barber’s attempt to inflict economic harm on our citizens, and work toward a reasonable compromise that keeps men out of women’s bathrooms.”The first reading of the bill is planned for Monday evening when it will then be referred to committees through the regular legislative process.