A trade-off forged between state leaders and the Charlotte City Council over LGBTQ rights drew a wide range of reactions Monday.
Charlotte rescinded its LGBTQ civil rights law passed earlier this year in exchange for a pledge that the state General Assembly would nullify House Bill 2, which prevents cities from passing laws supporting LGBTQ rights.
The Human Rights Campaign, which was among the biggest advocates for Charlotte's ordinance, gave a surprisingly muted response to the council’s decision. HRC leaders say that’s because city leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to passing comprehensive non-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people after HB2’s repeal.
HRC leaders say they were briefed in advance of the vote Monday by Governor-elect Roy Cooper, who was a critic of the General Assembly for passing House Bill 2 earlier this year.
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“HB2 is precisely why North Carolinians went to the polls and ousted Governor McCrory last month," said HRC President Chad Griffin.
“It’s been 271 days since the shameful and archaic HB2 was first passed, and the entire country has witnessed its devastating impact. It's time for state lawmakers to repeal HB2 and begin repairing the harm this bill has done.”
Equality NC, a state organization dedicated to LGBTQ rights, reacted with optimism. “The problem has never been Charlotte. Charlotte's ordinance was a best practice employed in hundreds of cities across the country,” said Executive Director Chris Sgro.
“The Charlotte City Council and mayor did the right thing by passing their ordinance – HB2 is wrong. Now, the General Assembly must fully repeal HB2 so that we can start the necessary talks for protecting LGBTQ people and bring back businesses across the state.”
Charlotte LGBTQ activist Ashley Williams was critical of the city’s vote. “For the members of the LGBT community, especially the transgender community, I can certainly see how this would feel like a betrayal by the City Council."
Williams, a co-founder of Charlotte Uprising, said the council members “never had a good understanding" of what the ordinance meant to their LGBT constituents or "they would have done more to maintain protections.”
“As someone at the intersections of racial and gender justice, I'm skeptical about the removal of HB2 as it wasn't just about trans and queer folks," Williams said. "I'm skeptical about whether this means something worse than HB2 is in the works.”
Progress NC Action, which promotes public policies that make N.C. “fairer,” noted state officials have not hinted they are suddenly supportive of LGBT community, raising questions about what may happen next.
“We continue to support the full repeal of HB2, but we’ve also seen just in the past week that Sen. (Phil) Berger and Speaker (Tim) Moore have no intention of operating in good faith when it comes to special sessions,” said Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action.
From the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal, a gay civil rights group: “LGBT rights aren’t a bargaining chip. Charlotte shouldn’t have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for H.B. 2 to be repealed,” said Simone Bell. “LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination. The right action is for the North Carolina legislature to pass a statewide comprehensive civil rights bill that includes full protections for LGBT people.”
The ACLU of NC, which is part of legal effort challenging the law, released the following statement:
“H.B. 2 was an unprecedented attack on the LGBT community, in particular against transgender people, and we are encouraged that its days are numbered,” said Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. “It is imperative that the General Assembly hold up their end of the deal and repeal H.B. 2 in full without delay.”
Mike Gordon contributed