Local legislators: House Bill 2 repeal ‘shouldn’t even be a question’

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 14, 2016

By Josh Bergeron


SALISBURY — As the steady drumbeat of cancellations continues, Rowan County’s state legislators say they won’t consider a full repeal of House Bill 2.

Initially, cancellations included a PayPal project in Charlotte that included 400 jobs and concerts. States and cities have barred employees from non-essential travel to North Carolina. Business conferences have been moved. The NBA moved its All-Star game out of Charlotte. Then, on Monday, the NCAA withdrew a number of its championship events from North Carolina. The most prominent of the cancellations included the first and second rounds of the Division I Men’s Basketball tournament in Greensboro.

The cancellations come as controversy reigns king over House Bill 2, which requires people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate. The bill also restricts local governments from setting a minimum wage. Estimates about economic losses from House Bill 2 vary, reaching more than $1 billion at the highest levels.

Despite the cancellations, Rowan County’s state legislators say they believe most people support House Bill 2. State Rep. Carl Ford, R-77, and all other state legislators who represent Rowan doubled down on their support when asked on Tuesday about the NCAA’s decision.

“What do you do to please these people and all this tolerance stuff,” Ford said. “They say be tolerant of us, but when it comes to our ideas, they don’t give a flip.”

When asked, all four of Rowan’s legislators said they wouldn’t support a full repeal of House Bill 2, regardless of whether the issue arises during a special session or a regularly scheduled legislative session. Sen. Tom McInnis, R-25, said he would consider changing everything but bathroom-related provisions of HB 2. State Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34, didn’t directly answer questions about a full repeal but spoke extensively about his support for the measure. Ford and State Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, both said they wouldn’t support any additional changes.

If House Bill 2 gets repealed, Warren questioned what other things state legislators might be willing to do when faced with public pressure. He emphasized that House Bill 2 was passed by the state’s “duly elected” representatives.

“I don’t recall anybody voting for basketball players or celebrities or rock stars,” he said. “I don’t believe the entities complaining (about House Bill 2) have a vested interest or represent the people of this state.”

Republicans in North Carolina have frequently referred to House Bill 2 as a “common-sense” measure. State legislators from Rowan reiterated that point on Tuesday when asked about a full repeal.

“This is plain as day,” Brock said. “It’s simple, and it shouldn’t even be a question or an issue.”

Brock said the NCAA should be more concerned about “rampant cheating in college” or a rape case at Baylor University in Texas, where multiple football players were convicted of rape and an investigation found that the university fostered a culture where crimes committed by athletes were covered up. By mentioning the rape case, Brock was reiterating a statement made one day earlier by the North Carolina Republican Party that generated as much anger as it dished out about the NCAA decision.

House Bill 2 was originally passed in response to a nondiscrimination ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council. It is now the subject of multiple lawsuits, including one filed by the U.S. Department of Justice. House Bill 2 has also become one of the most significant issues in North Carolina’s gubernatorial race. In Rowan County’s lone state legislature race — between McInnis and Anson County teacher Dannie Montgomery — it hasn’t been raised as a significant topic.

Montgomery couldn’t be reached Tuesday to comment about House Bill 2 and the latest developments.

Local legislators say a majority of people they’ve heard from support House Bill 2. However, the most recent poll about the issue — an August 24th survey from Monmouth University — shows that 55 percent of North Carolina voters disapprove of House Bill 2. Warren discounted any conclusions that people may draw from polling results.

“To me, polls are interesting like a parlor game and are not reflective of the will of the people,” he said.

All four of Rowan County’s legislators voted for House Bill 2 when it passed the General Assembly during a special session in March. The ensuing controversy is a “political ploy by Democrats,” McInnis said. Ford and Warren said that other states have similar or identical laws to House Bill 2.

The NCAA on Monday, however, said North Carolina is different from other states because of four specific factors. Those factors include the following:

• “North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals.”

• “North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different than the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.”

• “North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community.”

• “Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel for public employees and public institutions to North Carolina, which could include students athletes and campus athletics staff.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.