Charlotte city leaders are mulling whether to reinstate the nondiscrimination ordinance that prompted House Bill 2 – a symbolic move that could alienate Republican leaders but reaffirm their commitment to protecting gay individuals.
City Council voted in December to repeal the ordinance as part of an unsuccessful deal with the General Assembly to repeal HB2, which had nullified the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance. Reinstating the ordinance would be only a symbolic effort because HB2 remains in place.
But in an election year, council members may want to show the city’s gay and lesbian community that they are focused on giving them legal protections. The Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT advocacy group that opposes HB2, said Tuesday it would welcome the city reinstating its protections for the LGBT community.
The vote, however, could anger Republicans in Raleigh and hinder a second attempt at repealing the controversial state law.
Amy Auth, a spokeswoman for Senate President Phil Berger, said a new ordinance would break the law.
“If so, Mayor Roberts’ time would have been better spent trying to convince Senate Democrats to repeal HB2 in the clean, up-or-down vote rather than enacting symbolic pokes in the eye to the 16 Republican Senators who have already voted to repeal it,” she said in a statement.
Council members have discussed the symbolic vote and are divided over the issue, according to interviews with several officials. One part of the discussion: When is the best time to take such a vote? Would it do more harm than good?
Democrat Julie Eiselt, who voted for the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance in February, said she wants to find a way for the city to include legal protections for the LGBT community.
But she’s not sure it would be helpful to pass an ordinance that wouldn’t be valid.
“I don’t think anyone is willing to stop pursuing protections, but I want something meaningful,” she said. “My goal is to work for an enforceable ordinance.”
Democrat Patsy Kinsey, who also supports the LGBT protections, said “there is chatter” about possibly restoring the ordinance, though she isn’t sure that’s the best move for the city.
“I think right now the ball is in the General Assembly’s court,” she said. “We should respect that and let them mull it over. We have a new governor, and he’s the right person we should work with going forward.”
After Charlotte expanded its ordinance in February, the state passed HB2, which nullified it.
In May and September, the city turned down offers from legislative leaders to rescind its ordinance in hopes that the General Assembly would then repeal HB2.
In December, after Democrat Roy Cooper defeated incumbent governor Pat McCrory, Roberts and council members agreed to rescind their ordinance. But the legislature failed to repeal HB2.
A problem for Democrats was that the GOP leadership insisted on some kind of moratorium on N.C. municipalities passing new LGBT protections. The moratorium varied from six months to roughly nine months.
Democrats said the legislature would likely continue lengthening the moratorium. Because of that, Senate Democrats voted against the repeal.
Charlotte Chamber President Bob Morgan said Tuesday that he commends the council for repealing its ordinance, and he called on the legislature to repeal HB2.
But he said it “would be extremely counterproductive for the council to restore its ordinance. This would only be a symbolic act that would not extend protections to anybody.”
He added council members should work with legislators to repeal HB2.
Staff writer Jim Morrill contributed.