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Chris Fitzsimon: More damage to come from HB2

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Chris Fitzsimon is founder and director of NC Policy Watch, a progressive public policy think tank that is a special project of the N.C. Justice Center.

Chris Fitzsimon is founder and director of NC Policy Watch, a progressive public policy think tank that is a special project of the N.C. Justice Center.

The clock is ticking yet again on HB2 and the news from Raleigh is not encouraging. As the NCAA prepares to decide where championship events will be held for the next six years, North Carolina is on the verge of being locked out of hosting any of them because the anti-LGBTQ law remains on the books.

It is also a time when the evidence of the economic impact of HB2 plain to see, as the NBA is holding its All-Star festivities in New Orleans this weekend. The game and the events around it would have been in Charlotte if not for the law passed by the GOP super-majorities last March.

Reportedly back-room negotiations about repealing or modifying the law have broken down and Gov. Roy Cooper’s compromise proposal for repeal was dismissed out of hand by GOP legislative leaders, who appear more interested in attacking Cooper than addressing the massive damage the law continues to do to North Carolina.

It’s worth noting that several bills to repeal HB2 have been filed, including Cooper’s plan, all by Democrats.

One of the Democrats’ bills would also establish a statewide nondiscrimination standard that protects LGBTQ people from discrimination in employment and public accommodations — an important part of the debate often forgotten in all the talk about bathrooms.

Leading Republicans, including Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore, say that HB2 needs to be addressed but no Republican has yet to introduce any bill to do anything about it.

Their only strategy so far is to oppose anything the Democrats come up with to try to fix the problem that the Republican law is causing.

A first line in a recent editorial in the Virginian Pilot summed things up nicely.

“It is incomprehensible, but North Carolina Republicans appear content to leave House Bill 2, the so-called “bathroom bill,” in place despite the damage it continues to inflict on the state’s economy and reputation.”

Incomprehensible indeed.

Meanwhile the folks at PolitiFact have given Lt. Dan Forest’s latest claims about Cooper’s proposal to repeal HB2 its “pants on fire” rating for being absurd.

Forest called Cooper’s plan, which includes a call for more severe penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms and public facilities, a “look but don’t touch policy,” alleging that men will be able to access women’s facilities by posing as transgender.

That is patently ridiculous. There are already laws on the books about peeping and indecent exposure. And for all the bluster about how HB2 allegedly protects public safety, the law includes no criminal or civil penalties.

More than 200 cities have ordinances similar to the one that Charlotte enacted that allows transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity and have had no problems.

The Charlotte ordinance has become the subject of a blatantly false talking point of folks on the right trying to explain why legislative leaders failed to live up to an agreement to repeal HB2.

The deal in December struck by then Governor-elect Cooper and Berger and Moore was that Charlotte would repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance and the General Assembly would repeal HB2 in a special legislative session. That was the deal, repeal for repeal.

The Charlotte City Council met and repealed the parts of the ordinance affected by HB2 but not the whole thing, prompting conspiracy theories by HB2 supporters. So the council met again the morning of the special session and repealed the entire local ordinance, but Republican leaders failed to the keep their word and the session adjourned with HB2 still on the books.

Berger proposed repeal with a six-month moratorium on local governments adopting antidiscrimination ordinances, but Democrats voted against it because it was not part of the deal. Many Republicans voted against it too.

Now supporters of HB2 routinely say that Charlotte never repealed its nondiscrimination ordinance which is simply not true.

It is a perfect example of alternative facts and allows Republicans to try to escape responsibility for the discriminatory law they passed that continues to damage the state every day.

There is still time for legislative leaders to  at least allow a vote on HB2 repeal so the people of North Carolina can see where their representatives stand, but given the obstinance of legislative leaders, even that seems unlikely.

Meanwhile the damage to North Carolina continues.

Chris Fitsimon is founder and executive director of N.C. Policy Watch.

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