On HB2, compromise is unlikely

N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory crafted a very different response to Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance than what ended up as HB2.
N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory crafted a very different response to Charlotte’s non-discrimination ordinance than what ended up as HB2. Observer file photo

Pat McCrory says he thought he had a “total verbal agreement” with the NBA last month for a compromise on HB2.

A source involved in the same conversations suggests that of those three words, “verbal” is the only one that’s accurate.

Compromises are tricky that way. It’s possible to be close and far away at the same time. That’s because the last step is usually the tallest one to take.

Let’s talk today about that part of HB2. Not about who started it all – the city or the state – but about how difficult the law will be to meaningfully change.

A lot of people want that change, by the way. They want an HB2 compromise that everyone – or at least enough people – can live with. That includes the governor, who deserves a nod, at least, for getting on the phone with NBA commissioner Adam Silver and trying to make a bad situation better.

The deal, which McCrory detailed to the Observer’s Rick Rothacker and Katherine Peralta last week, fell short. It included reversing an HB2 provision that restricted the ability to sue for discrimination in state court. It also would have aligned state nondiscrimination statutes with federal language. It didn’t, however, eliminate the bathroom provisions in HB2, nor the provision that took away cities’ rights to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination.

McCrory says the agreement with the NBA was “sabotaged” by Republican legislators, who probably didn’t like the idea of giving an inch on HB2, especially if it involved yoking the state’s discrimination laws to federal statutes.

The deal also was opposed by Attorney General Roy Cooper and groups that included the Human Rights Campaign. The very simple reason: The discriminatory parts of HB2 remained.

That’s quite a gap. And it’s one that might even be bigger now than it used to be.

An interesting story I heard not long ago: Back in March, after Charlotte had passed its non-discrimination ordinance, McCrory drafted his own version of what became HB2 and sent it over to the legislature. It was short and simple: Local governments would be barred from adopting policies that forced businesses to accommodate a transgender individual’s bathroom and locker room choice. That’s it.

McCrory’s attorney, Bob Stephens, confirmed it Friday. “He let the legislature know that that if they were to adopt something along those lines, he would support it,” Stephens said of the governor. “His thought was that it should be a very narrow bill.”

That bill, too, would have met with protests, and rightly so, because it removed protections for sexual identity. But some Republicans in Raleigh wonder now if PayPal and Springsteen and the NBA would have happened if the legislature had stuck to only what McCrory suggested.

Maybe it wouldn’t have. Remember, it was only last year when Charlotte’s City Council, led by Democrats, couldn’t agree on those same transgender protections for bathrooms.

No matter. McCrory signed the HB2 he didn’t recommend. And now we’re in a very different place than a year, or even six months, ago. There’s been extraordinary and rapid progress on transgender awareness in this country. Discriminating against any member of the LGBT community is seen more widely as discriminating against all.

That’s a good thing, that progress. And it’s why any movement on HB2 will have to come from the courts. Compromise may be a worthy concept, but discrimination shouldn’t ever be OK, even when it’s just a little.

Peter: @saintorange; pstonge@charlotte