Late last night, the North Carolina General Assembly adjourned without repealing the state’s deeply discriminatory HB2 law that has sparked debate and outcry across the country. Lawmakers chose to ignore the overwhelming chorus of North Carolinians, business leaders, fair-minded voices, and civil rights advocates demanding the law be repealed before the end of the legislative session.
“Legislators shamefully walked away from their job today without fixing the deeply harmful and outrageous mess they created with HB2,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “HB2 puts LGBTQ people in harm’s way every single day it remains on the books and has cost the state not only its reputation but millions of dollars. Let me be clear: this is not over and they will be held to account. Lawmakers may have run out the clock on this short session, but they won’t be able to run away from North Carolina’s voters in November.”
Instead of fully repealing HB2, only one portion of the deeply discriminatory law was addressed. Lawmakers passed a measure late last night that restores the ability to sue under state employment non-discrimination law on the basis of any protected characteristic, including race, religion, national origin, and sex. However, they pointedly chose not to include sexual orientation or gender identity, thus leaving in place the discriminatory provision that has made it illegal for transgender people to access certain restrooms and other facilities, and the section that blocks localities from passing non-discrimination protections for their own residents and visitors.
In the over 3 months since Governor McCrory and state lawmakers rammed HB2 into law, the overwhelming outcry from fair-minded North Carolinians, business leaders, and LGBTQ equality advocates has continued to grow. More than 200 major CEOs and business leaders signed an open letter calling for full repeal of HB2 -- including many of North Carolina’s largest employers. Major film studios and corporations, from PayPal to Deutsche Bank, have stopped investments in the state because of the new law’s threat to employees and consumers. Artists including Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Dead & Company, and Cyndi Lauper have spoken out. Conventions have withdrawn from the state, taking substantial revenue with them, and the Charlotte Chamber said in May that HB2 has cost the Mecklenburg area alone $285 million and 1300 jobs.
HB 2 has eliminated existing municipal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people and prevents such protections from being passed by cities in the future. In addition, the legislation prevents transgender students in public schools from using restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity. It also compels the same type of discrimination against transgender people to take place in publicly-owned buildings, including in public universities, major airports, and convention centers.
To be clear, full repeal of HB2 would only be the start. The state still lacks protections for LGBTQ people from discrimination.