March 30, 2017 at 1:46 pm PDT | by Chris Johnson
NC Gov. Roy Cooper signs deal to replace HB2 as LGBT advocates cry betrayal

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has endorsed a HB2 deal vehemently opposed by LGBT advocates. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed Thursday a proposal to replace North Carolina’s anti-LGBT House Bill 2 with another law enabling anti-LGBT discrimination, prompting cries of betrayal from LGBT advocates who say he disregarded his campaign promise to sign the bill in full.

The measure, House Bill 142, was approved on a bipartisan basis Thursday in the Senate by a vote of 32-16 and the House by vote of 70-48 after Republican leaders and Cooper announced the deal late Wednesday night. Cooper announced during a news conference later in the day he signed the bill.

“It doesn’t fully correct it,” Cooper said. “I know we got more to do, and I think some people are unhappy because it doesn’t fully correct it, and I wish we could have, and I wish this time limit on being able to do the additional protections for discrimination could be sooner, but that was the best deal that we could get.”

Cooper insisted “not only provides for LGBT protections, but opens the door for more,” even though no aspect of the new law prohibits discrimination against LGBT people. The governor said as part of the negotiations he was able to stop LGBT rights from coming up for a referendum in North Carolina or a “religious freedom” measure that would enable discrimination against LGBT people.

After having campaigned not only on HB2 repeal, but support for statewide LGBT non-discrimination protections, Cooper said a bill that would bar discrimination against LGBT people throughout North Carolina remains his goal.

“In a perfect world, we would have repealed HB2 today and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, our supermajority Republican legislature will not pass these protections. But this is an important goal that I will keep fighting for.”

The new law repeals HB2, but critics say it still enables discrimination. Section 1 bars state agencies, including cities and the University of North Carolina, from the “regulation of access” to multiple-occupancy restroom, showers or changing facilities except in accordance with the legislature, which essentially leaves transgender people seeking to use those facilities vulnerable to harassment or discrimination.

Section 2 prohibits municipalities from enacting ordinances on private employment or public accommodations, which would bar cities from passing LGBT non-discrimination measures in those areas. Section 3 of the bill would sunset that provision on Dec. 1, 2020.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, expressed displeasure on Twitter over after worked to elect Cooper to the governor’s office only to have sign the compromise.

In a rare criticism of Democrats, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, denounced Cooper on Twitter, saying the governor was being misleading by saying he signed HB2 repeal.

The outrage from LGBT advocates over Cooper signing the HB2 replacement is a far cry from their view of him last year when HB2 was first signed into law and Cooper, as North Carolina attorney general, announced he wouldn’t defend HB2 against legal challenges in court.

The deal was struck came in the same week the National Collegiate Athletic Association said it will make decisions on events. The NCAA has said North Carolina won’t be considered for championship events through 2022 “absent any change” to HB2. According to the Associated Press, North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

After Cooper signed the law, LGBT advocates — the North Carolina NAACP, the Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the Freedom Center for Social Justice — issued a joint statement calling on the NCAA to come out against the measure.

“We call on the NCAA to oppose this shameful HB2.0 bill in North Carolina, and not to reward lawmakers who have passed this so-called ‘deal’ which is an affront to the values we all hold,” the statement says. “This bill is anti-worker, anti-access to the courts, and anti-LGBTQ. It violates all basic principles of diversity, inclusion and basic civil rights. Fundamentally, any moratorium on civil rights is not a compromise, it is a contradiction with the principle of equal protection under the law and our moral values.”

The NCAA has yet to articulate publicly a position on the HB2 deal and whether it will now allow North Carolina to host championship games, although Cooper said during his news conference he expects sports games to return the state.

UPDATE: During a subsequent news conference, NCAA President Mark Emmert said a decision will come next week on whether the changes to HB2 are sufficient enough for the league to plan championship games in the state.

“I’m personally very pleased that they have a bill to debate and discuss,” Emmert said. “The politics of this in North Carolina are obviously very, very difficult. But they have passed a bill now and it will be a great opportunity for our board to sit and debate and discuss it.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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