Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and other Republican leaders have spent the last few days desperately distorting the facts and rewriting history to try to blame Governor Roy Cooper for the disaster of HB2 that was passed by the GOP supermajority in the House and Senate and signed into law by former Governor Pat McCrory last March.
There is a good reason for their renewed desperation to shift the blame away from themselves for the discriminatory law that has already cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs, not to mention demonized a group of people in the state.
The NCAA, which has already pulled several major sporting events out of the state because of HB2, is currently deciding where hundreds of championship events will be held in the next five years.
North Carolina has bids out to host more than a hundred of those events all of which would brings jobs and revenue to local areas. But that won’t will happen if HB2 stays on the books and while the loss of sporting events is far from the most troubling impact of the law that targets a specific group of people, it is one of the easiest to understand and quantify.
Berger and his GOP colleagues are scrambling to avoid the blame that is squarely theirs.
Governor Cooper gave them another chance this week to do the right thing for the state with a compromise proposal to repeal the law. Cooper’s plan would repeal HB2, toughen penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms and public facilities and require local governments to give 30-days notice before considering local anti-discrimination ordinances.
Human rights groups in Washington and in Raleigh aren’t thrilled with the idea, preferring instead a simple clean repeal of HB2.
They rightly point out that increasing the penalties for crimes in public bathrooms reinforces the absurd claims that allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity somehow puts people at risk which has not been the case in cities across the country that forbid discrimination against LGBTQ people in public facilities.
The groups also aren’t thrilled with singling out nondiscrimination ordinances for a 30-day notice requirement, a valid concern though more public notice in general would be helpful from any public body, including the General Assembly.
And it’s also important to note that Cooper did not include in his compromise a proposal by Democrats in the legislature to add protections for LGBTQ people to the statewide non discrimination law, though he expressed support for the idea.
But the opposition from human rights groups was mild compared to the predictably vitriolic response from Berger, who echoing the rhetoric of President Trump’s criticism of a “so-called judge, called Coopers plan a “so-called compromise” and said people deserve to know if Cooper believes men should be able to go into women’s restrooms.
Berger has no evidence for his offensive fear mongering and he refuses to acknowledge that HB2 is about far more than bathrooms. It prevents local governments from protecting LGBTQ people from being fired or denied services simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
HB2 was never really about public safety. Berger’s rejection of Cooper’s compromise plan with its tougher penalties for crimes in public facilities, an unnecessary as they are, is proof of that.
Berger is merely pandering to his far-right religious base that stands firmly against equal rights for LGBTQ North Carolinians.
There was a deal in December to repeal HB2. Cooper convinced the City of Charlotte to repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance that right-wing lawmakers said prompted them to pass the law in exchange for Berger and Moore promising to repeal HB2 in a special session.
Cooper and Charlotte lived up to their end of the bargain but Berger and Moore did not. They were unable to convince a majority of their Republican members to support the deal they made and the special session adjourned with HB2 still on the books and Berger flailing to blame Cooper for his own failure to live up to his word.
Now two months later with thousands more jobs and millions of more dollars on the line from the NCAA events, Berger is flailing again, trying harder to escape responsibility than to do what’s best for North Carolina.
Governor Roy Cooper called HB2 a dark stain in North Carolina and he is right. It has damaged the reputation of the state around the world and singled out a group of people for discrimination.
With his rejection of Cooper’s latest compromise to begin to repair that damage, Berger has confirmed again that HB2 is his law—and his dark stain that continues to hurt us all.
Chris Fitzsimon is the founder and executive director of NC Policy Watch.