Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday offered what he called a “common-sense compromise” to repeal House Bill 2, but it drew fire from legislative Republicans – and HB2 critics.
Cooper called for repeal coupled with stricter penalties for bathroom crimes and a requirement for cities to notify lawmakers 30 days before adopting any non-discrimination ordinance.
At a news conference, he said it was “urgent” to repeal the law, citing the NCAA expected deadline on selecting venues for championship events for the next six years. Cities and schools have proposed 133 North Carolina sites as venues for NCAA events. They would have an estimated economic impact of $250 million.
But Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger dismissed what he called Cooper’s “so-called compromise.” And the two advocacy groups that have fought against HB2 – Equality North Carolina and the national Human Rights Campaign – quickly denounced Cooper’s proposed compromise.
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An effort to repeal the law, which came in response to a Charlotte ordinance that extended LGBT protections, fell apart in December when Senate Republicans proposed adding a 6-month moratorium on local governments adopting ordinances like Charlotte’s.
“The Republican (legislative) leadership has challenged me to offer yet another compromise proposal,” Cooper said.
Cooper’s plan calls for repealing HB2 and enacting tougher, though unspecified, penalties for crimes in bathrooms or locker rooms. HB2 supporters have said they worry about people pretending to be of the opposite sex committing such crimes.
It also called for a 30-day period for cities to notify the General Assembly before enacting any anti-discrimination ordinances.
“Gov. Cooper’s press conference is the first we’ve heard of his so-called compromise, so if he has a list of members willing to support his proposal, he should make it public now,” Berger said in a statement. “Given that Gov. Cooper’s refusal to enforce existing criminal trespass laws as attorney general was a major reason legislators were forced to pass HB2 in the first place, it is difficult to take seriously his pledge on ‘strengthening penalties.’…’
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, a Republican, said Cooper’s proposal “will create a state-sanctioned ‘Look But Don’t Touch’ policy in our bathrooms.”
“Heterosexual men will be able to access women’s showers and bathrooms by simply posing as a transgender individual,” he said. “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.”
HB2 critics also blasted Cooper’s effort.
In a news conference, Equality N.C. Executive Director Chris Sgro said nothing short of an immediate repeal of the law would be acceptable. Increasing penalties for offenses that occur in public restrooms or dressing rooms and requiring cities and counties give advance notice of voting on anti-discrimination measures were unnecessary.
He pointed out that Charlotte spent more than a year crafting its anti-discrimination ordinance, which led to HB2. Local governments have the ability to decide what protections their own residents should have, he said.
“No member of the LBGT community is a risk to public safety in a public restroom or anywhere else, and that conversation is, frankly, a distraction from the real issue,” Sgro said.
“Here is the real issue: (House Speaker) Tim Moore and Phil Berger are playing the longest game of political football with the welfare of our state that I’ve ever witnessed. In this game, they’re playing the role of Lucy, while the entire state gets Charlie Browned every time they pull new political shenanigans.”
Since North Carolina passed its controversial HB2, supporters have focused on one portion of the law: bathroom safety.
They say that Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which HB2 nullified, would have put women and children at risk in restrooms because it would have allowed transgender women to use the bathroom of their gender identity.
This weekend, the NBA will host its annual All-Star game in New Orleans. The league moved the game from Charlotte because of HB2.
Colin Campbell of the News & Observer contributed.