RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina lawmakers gathered Wednesday to vote on repealing the state’s controversial “bathroom bill.”
House Bill 2, signed into law in March, bans people from using public bathrooms that don’t correspond to their biological sex as listed on their birth certificates. Backlash against the law caused huge economic losses for the state.
By the end of Wednesday lawmakers rejected a repeal of HB2.
Senate Bill 4, called “Repeal HB2,” was filed by Republican leadership Wednesday afternoon. It would impose a six-month moratorium on any local government that wants to “enact or amend an ordinance regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers, or changing facilities,” but the vote failed.
The moratorium could be renewed again and again, essentially making it impossible for cities to pass nondiscrimination laws, said state Rep. Chris Sgro, a Democrat and an openly gay legislator.
“It’s going to continue discrimination,” Sgro said. “We had better see a clean repeal bill if we are going to actually clean up the mess that these folks have made in the state of North Carolina.”
The state Senate and House of Representatives now need to vote on the bill.
The state law was passed in response to a Charlotte city “nondiscrimination ordinance” that allowed transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity.
But on Monday, the City Council there rescinded its nondiscrimination ordinance — apparently in exchange for a special session by the legislature to repeal HB2.
“The City Council acted in good faith to do everything that it understood was necessary to facilitate the repeal of HB2,” the city said Wednesday.
Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson Jackson accused GOP lawmakers of tricking Charlotte into axing its nondiscrimination ordinance.
“What Charlotte did — repealing its own ordinance — was a hard move,” Jackson tweeted. “For GOP to respond by breaking its promise is unacceptable.”
Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore “assured me that as a result of Charlotte’s vote, a special session will be called … to repeal HB2 in full.”
That special session began Wednesday morning, but was repeatedly delayed by a series of recesses.
“I’ve never seen this many recesses in one day in my career,” said Democratic state Rep. Mickey Michaux, the longest serving member of the state’s General Assembly. “I don’t know what is going to happen. I though we were coming in here to repeal HB2.”
While waiting for his Republican colleagues to come back, Jackson decided to take measures into his own hands by filing a bill to repeal the bathroom bill.
“While we wait for NCGOP to make good on their deal, I went ahead and filed a bill to fully repeal HB2. Let’s vote,” Jackson tweeted.
An hour later, many lawmakers still hadn’t returned.
Political, economic fallout
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory blamed his gubernatorial defeat last month on controversy over the bathroom bill, which countered Charlotte’s ordinance.
“I have always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance,” McCrory said.
He said the Charlotte council’s “sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state.”
But in the nine months since McCrory signed the law, the state has grappled with wide-ranging repercussions.
The Justice Department filed a suit challenging the measure, and the state’s public university system pledged to defy the statewide law.
North Carolina also suffered huge economic losses after HB2’s passage.
Singers Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas, as well as bands such as Pearl Jam and Boston, canceled concerts in the state.
PayPal and Deutsche Bank both said they would cancel plans to expand into the state.
And the NCAA said it would relocate several college athletic championship events for the 2016-17 season that were scheduled to take place in North Carolina.