LAURINBURG — Two legislators who represent Scotland County said House Bill 2 is hurting North Carolinians’ pocketbooks and will continue to do so, but neither sees any fix to the problem in the short term.
The legislation, ushered through the General Assembly by Republicans, was signed into law in March by Gov. Pat McCrory. It nullified a Charlotte ordinance which protected transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity. HB2 also overrode local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for the LGBT community.
Over the weekend, Gov. McCrory and GOP lawmakers considered the idea of a special General Assembly session to repeal HB2, but only if the city of Charlotte rescinds its ordinance. The Charlotte City Council met Monday and the anti-discrimination ordinance was not on its agenda.
“We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community,” Mayor Jennifer Roberts said in a press conference.
Since it became law, HB2 has been blamed for corporations backing out of planned investments, entertainers canceling shows in North Carolina, and most recently separate decisions by the NCAA and ACC to move sporting events out of the state.
“This has become a very serious economic issue,” said Rep. Ken Goodman, a Democrat who represents part of Scotland County. “If we don’t address this issue, I think there might be other things, other shoes to drop. The PGA, other corporate partners.”
Critics say HB2 discriminates against LGBT individuals, while proponents say it protects bathroom privacy and security. Both Goodman and state Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat who also represents Scotland County, voted in favor of the legislation.
Pierce, a Laurinburg pastor, now believes that something needs to be done about the legislation, but was clear he feels the issue isn’t about politics, but morals.
“I don’t know what forces are still so dug in that they are willing to take the state down this path. People should have the right to do what they please, but this is a new normal,” Pierce said. “As Southerners we have been raised on a diet of boys use the boy’s bathroom and girls use the girl’s bathroom. People were not ready for HB2 and the environment it created for our state. When you’re not informed and don’t have all the information it’s hard for your mind to change on a dime. You have to be taught and given information on what you are dealing with. When you react based on what you were raised on the consequences are where we are right now.”
The NCAA and ACC withdrawal from events in North Carolina prompted a handful of Republican lawmakers who voted for the law to call for a full or partial repeal.
Goodman believes the loss of sporting events could be a tipping point. Last week it was announced that all ACC neutral-site championship games and seven NCAA championship events, including the first-and second-round games of the men’s basketball tournament, would be moved out of North Carolina.
“Losing the ACC championship games or NCAA championship games, I think that made some people take notice of it,” Goodman said. “I think a lot of people identified with that, like they do with ACC basketball.”
While opponents of HB2 speak of the consequences, most of those who supported it continue to tout it as a legislation to protect North Carolinians, including Gov. McCrory.
“For the last nine months, the governor has consistently said state legislation is only needed if the Charlotte ordinance remains in place,” McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said in a statement. “If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers in the House and Senate, the governor will call a special session.”
The General Assembly isn’t scheduled to reconvene until January; however, McCrory can all the legislature into session, if he chooses, and GOP leaders do have the power to introduce a bill that would repeal HB2 — without any action from the city of Charlotte.
Rescinding the local law wouldn’t stop the economic impact the entire state is currently dealing with from HB2 — something Pierce believes law makers should take into consideration.
“There is no use at pointing our fingers at this group or that group, we all now have an opportunity to stop the hemorrhaging,” he said. “All parties need to come together, we all bear responsibility if we let this continue. The patient — North Carolina — is hemorrhaging, she is losing her life blood, which is economic development. We need to stop the hemorrhaging and give her a blood transfusion of understanding and all of us working together for the good of North Carolina and all of her sisters.”
Sen. Tom McInnis, a Republican representing Scotland County, has voiced his support for HB2. But he could not be reached for comment for this story.
Dannie Montgomery, the Democratic running against McInnis, said the state needs to repeal HB2.
“It would be in North Carolina’s best interest to repeal this bill,” she said. “North Carolina is built on southern hospitality and we need to get back to that. This bill has impacted the economy by driving hundreds of jobs out of state and costing North Carolina millions of dollars and it’s only going to get worse. The governor needs to put all of the people first, not just certain groups of people.”
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.