One of the most interesting developments in Raleigh this week was the public announcement by three Republican members of the General Assembly that it is time to repeal or at least revisit HB2, the sweeping anti-LGBT legislation passed in a special legislative session last March and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.
The second thoughts by Republicans who supported the legislation come after the NCAA and the ACC both announced they were pulling events out of the state because of the law, costing the state tens of millions of dollars in revenue, the latest economic blow from the legislation that has already cost North Carolina thousands of jobs and damaged its reputation around the world.
First Senator Tamara Barringer, a Wake County Republican locked in a tough battle for reelection, announced that “to preserve the proud heritage of North Carolina, it is time for our leadership to consider a substantial and immediate repeal of HB2.”
Then Republican Senator Rick Gunn from Alamance County issued a statement citing the economic damage from decisions by the NCAA and ACC and declaring that “it is time we give serious consideration to modifying or possibly repealing HB2.”
And finally and most bizarrely, Rep. Gary Pendleton, also in a close race for his political life, told the News & Observer that he favored a special session to revisit the law and that he skipped the special session in which the law was passed last spring because he “wasn’t going to go down there and get harassed and harassed and harassed to vote for something I just didn’t want to vote for.”
Apparently Pendleton wants folks to believe was against HB2 from the beginning but decided not to show up and represent his constituents because he didn’t want be “harassed” to vote for it.
That’s quite a profile in courage indeed.
Also this week, former Senate Rules Chair Tom Apodaca revealed in an interview conducted before the decisions by the NCAA and the ACC that he was not a big supporter of HB2 last spring and “preferred the bill not emerge” but went along with it because of the passion of its supporters.
There’s another courageous stand, the second most powerful member of the Senate refusing to voice his objection to a law that has been disastrous for the state because of the passion of people who disagreed with him.
Reportedly many more rank-and-file Republicans have been complaining privately to legislative leaders about the impact of HB2 on the state and their campaigns and the chorus grew loud enough that top officials in the House and Senate met to consider a special session to change or maybe even repeal the law.
But at last report, the divisions inside the Republican Party were too stark to pull off a special session. The law remains on the books.
That’s apparently fine with Gov. Pat McCrory who is still all in with HB2 and blaming the backlash on everyone from corporate leaders to the media to his political opponents. Of course, none of them signed HB2 in the dark of night after a rushed one-day special session last spring.
That was McCrory who did that. It is his law and the damage to North Carolina is his fault.
McCrory’s response to the announcements this week was typical, blasting the NCAA like he and his supporters have attacked the corporations and Fortune 500 executives who have spoken out against HB2.
It’s an interesting long term economic development strategy, bitterly attacking institutions including some of the most successful corporations in America.
McCrory also repeated his statement that the courts will decide the fate of HB2, which is not true—like most of his other statements about the law of which he is so proud.
The courts are considering only part of the public facility portion of the law that bans the common sense notion of transgender people using the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
The courts are not considering the part that sets a statewide nondiscrimination standard that includes “biological sex” to make sure that LGBT people are not protected from being fired or denied services because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
McCrory also complained that the NCAA met privately to make its decision to move events out of North Carolina, which is an odd avenue of attack since McCrory himself refused repeated requests to hold off signing HB2 until he met with people affected by it.
And in what has sadly become typical of McCrory, he left his speech in Charlotte this week without talking to reporters.
He’d rather not face questions about his steadfast support of a law that’s damaging the state he leads or why his lawyers have argued on his behalf that transgender people are mentally ill and need treatment, not protection from discrimination.
Not too long ago, McCrory claimed that HB2 was irrelevant. That of course is absurd. It’s not irrelevant at all, it’s demonizing a group of people, costing the North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, and damaging the state’s reputation across the country.
McCrory’s pathetic attempts to escape responsibility for the damage from HB2 is inflicting on North Carolina are relevant too and they are also revealing—as the discriminatory law McCrory signed remains the defining issue of his administration no matter how hard he tries to claim otherwise.