Goodbye, NCAA. Goodbye, ACC. Goodbye from Phil Berger, who keeps whispering, “Hush.”
Sen. Berger and other Republican leaders on Tuesday made clear that they have zero intention of repealing HB2, “clean” or otherwise. Minutes after Gov. Roy Cooper offered a compromise deal, Berger shot it down and other Republicans followed.
That’s yet another nail in the repeal effort’s coffin, and almost guarantees that the NCAA and the ACC will remove North Carolina from consideration for all events through at least 2022. That will mean the state that is the heart of the Atlantic Coast Conference will go six years without a championship event, forgoing millions of dollars in tax revenue and hundreds of millions in economic impact.
Berger had, laughably, been blaming Cooper for HB2’s continued existence and challenged him to propose a workable compromise. He did so Tuesday, outing legislative leaders for who they are: people who would rather keep this political game going than do what’s best for the state, its reputation and its economy.
HB2 backers have said the law was needed to protect women and girls from sexual predators in bathrooms. That’s an absurd argument, both because a transgender person has never sexually assaulted anyone in an N.C. bathroom and because HB2 has no enforcement mechanism.
So Cooper proposed some teeth: Stiffen penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms and locker rooms. Cooper would also require a 30-day notice before a local government takes up any anti-discrimination ordinance. That addresses Republican legislators’ fear that cities will rush to pass ordinances the moment HB2 is repealed.
It’s a compromise that would remove the HB2 stain from our state while helping backers protect what they claim to hold most dear. It would also put the state back in contention for NCAA and ACC events.
But Berger said “it is difficult to take seriously (Cooper’s) pledge on ‘strengthening penalties’,” even though the legislature would be the one to control the new law’s wording. And Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the state’s most inflammatory public official on this issue, falsely claimed that Cooper’s proposal would allow straight men to ogle girls while they shower. That is already against the law and would continue to be.
The legislature holds the power here. But LGBT advocates didn’t help Cooper Tuesday either. They rejected his proposal as well, calling its provisions unnecessary and insisting that only a clean repeal would do. Those provisions may indeed be unnecessary, but a clean repeal is unrealistic, and gay rights advocates should be willing to give Republicans harmless political cover if it will erase HB2.
A majority of North Carolinians want HB2 repealed. Polls show that, and Pat McCrory’s being the only incumbent governor of either party to lose in November suggests that. Phil Berger and other Republicans in Raleigh don’t care. They reneged on their end of a repeal deal in December, they’ve prevented a straight up-or-down vote and they are rejecting reasonable compromises minutes after they’re proposed.
They need to act like responsible adults. But that’s looking as far-fetched as the cow jumping over the moon.