North Carolina's 'bathroom bill' set on fast path to repeal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina's incoming governor said that legislators are planning to hold a special session to repeal a law limiting protections for LGBT people.

Governor-elect Roy Cooper issued a statement Monday, saying legislators plan to hold the session this week on the law known as HB2 because Charlotte repealed a local nondiscrimination ordinance that Republicans blamed for the statewide law.

The Charlotte City Council met Monday and voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance enacted in early 2016.

However, the council's move is contingent on North Carolina legislators fully repealing HB2 by Dec. 31.

Channel 9 anchor Liz Foster was at the City Council meeting Monday morning where the announcement was made.

Council discussed and voted on the repeal without any public mention of it ahead of time.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts was clear that negotiations have been ongoing behind closed doors, involving incoming Cooper and state lawmakers.

"This is an incredible reaching out of the city and it took incredible conversation and hard work by many parties on all sides," Roberts said.

The repeal would be a remarkable sign of cooperation for Democrat Cooper and the GOP-controlled legislature. Just last week, lawmakers called a special session and stripped Cooper of some of his authority when he takes office next month.

While city leaders didn't have to repeal the ordinance in order for the general assembly to repeal HB2, some lawmakers said it paves the way for a repeal -- but they wish a deadline wasn't attached.

“With the Charlotte ordinance no longer on the books, the concerns that were raised by that ordinance, which were the concerns addressed by HB2, would no longer be relevant,” said Rep. Bill Brawley. “HB2 would no longer be necessary."

"There have been several opportunities to repeal this ordinance and several opportunities to repeal House Bill 2 and so hopefully we'll eventually get it done at the end of the year," Mecklenburg County Rep. Joel Ford said.

HB2 requires people to use restrooms in many public buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates and excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from statewide anti-discrimination protections.

Cooper said North Carolina legislators will meet to repeal the law, and released the following statement on the vote:

"Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte's vote, a special session will be called for Tuesday to repeal HB2 in full. I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full. Full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state."

"Now that the Charlotte ordinance has been repealed, the expectation of privacy in our showers, bathrooms and locker rooms is restored and protected under previous state law. Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists," said Graham Wilson, McCrory’s press secretary. "This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor’s race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state. As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session."

The negotiation between the city and state has been going on for months.

In September, City Council was told that the state would drop HB2 if the city would repeal its nondiscrimination ordinance. But at that time the city did not act.

All of this is too late to save major sporting events that have pulled out of Charlotte -- including the NBA All-Star game and the ACC Championship football game -- or major businesses from leaving, like PayPal.

The estimated economic hit for Charlotte alone has been $500 million.

McCrory said later Monday that he would call legislators back to the Capitol on Wednesday to repeal HB2, which also excludes sexual orientation and gender identity from antidiscrimination protections.

In addition, the measure reaffirms that local governments can't require area businesses to pay a minimum wage higher than North Carolina's statewide minimum, currently set at $7.25 per hour.

Republicans had said the Charlotte ordinance -- which ensured transgender people the right to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity -- had to go first before they would consider getting rid of HB2.

Even some Republicans who favored House Bill two's bathroom protections admit they're ready to repeal the law blamed for the state losing billions in economic activity.

"If we can get a reset and move forward, that would be in the interest of the state," Brawley said.

Supporters of HB2 were quick to criticize the likelihood that lawmakers would vote for its repeal.

"We're sending the message to our supporters that lawmakers should not now betray people who supported them and compromise common-sense principles like privacy, dignity and freedom from our citizens," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition.

The NCAA, which pulled seven championships out of North Carolina because of HB2, welcomed the news.

"We are encouraged by the current discussions in North Carolina and remain committed to hosting future NCAA championships to ensure they promote an inclusive atmosphere for college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans," the organization said in a statement, adding that the relocated championships for 2016-17 will remain in their new cities.

And LGBT advocates held out hope that the General Assembly would follow through, although they also said protection from discrimination transcends politics.

"LGBT rights aren't a bargaining chip. Charlotte shouldn't have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for HB2 to be repealed," Simone Bell, the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal, said in a statement. "LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination."

In March, a full repeal of the law appeared highly unlikely. At the time, Republican legislative leaders didn't address McCrory's request to restore the right to sue in state court for employment discrimination, which was one of the bill's original tenets. But they praised him for reaffirming bathroom provisions in the law. It was in September that McCrory and GOP legislative leaders offered a deal to Charlotte saying they would consider rescinding HB2 if city leaders repealed the ordinance.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts basically told McCrory and the lawmakers they would have to move first.

If HB2 isn’t repealed by Dec. 31, the city’s non-discrimination ordinance goes back on the books on Jan. 1.

After the vote, the City of Charlotte released a statement as well:

The City of Charlotte continues its commitment to be a welcoming community that honors and respects all people. 

The Charlotte City Council recognizes the ongoing negative economic impact resulting from the passage of the City’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance and the State’s House Bill 2.  The Council acknowledges that North Carolina House Bill 2 “supersede(s) and preempt(s)” the City’s Ordinance.  In order to continue thriving as an inclusive community and compete for high paying jobs and world-class events, the City and State must take action together to restore our collective reputation. 

During this morning’s Legislative Briefing with the State Delegation representing Mecklenburg County, the Charlotte City Council voted to remove the Non-Discrimination Ordinance from the City Code.  The City urges the State to follow immediately with a repeal of House Bill 2. 

The City of Charlotte is deeply dedicated to protecting the rights of all people from discrimination and, with House Bill 2 repealed, will be able to pursue that priority for our community.  There are many issues that require a positive and collaborative relationship between the City and State.  The City pledges commitment to that partnership.     

In addition to removal of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, the City Council also removed from the City Code the Cable TV Ordinance (invalidated by the State in 2006) and the Business Privilege License Tax (invalidated by the State in 2014).

Local businessman reacts to HB2 repeal

Ron Tate remembers getting a knot in his stomach when state lawmakers approved House Bill 2, and then the NBA took the All-Star Game away from Charlotte.

He would've made a lot of money hosting events during that busy weekend.

"Easily six figures in revenue that we probably lost because of the All-Star Game," Tate said.

Tate is co-founder of the Moxie Society.

HB2, which limited protections for the LGBT community, has been the focus of a lot of backlash within the business community.

It's been blamed for companies like PayPal backing out of plans to bring hundreds of jobs to Charlotte.

Along with the All-Star game, the ACC took its championship games away from the state, including the football championship game that was played in Orlando instead of Charlotte. Major musicians cancelled concerts in the state.

"It really was a setback, not only around economic opportunities, but the perception of Charlotte," Tate said.

Monday's decision from Charlotte City Council to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance, plus a promise from the governor to in-turn call a special session to discuss HB2 is relief to the Charlotte Chamber.

The chamber constantly called for a compromise.

In a statement to Channel 9, Bob Morgan said in part, “We commend the Charlotte City Council for taking action to bring about a solution to the controversy"

He went on to say, "We encourage the North Carolina General Assembly to act promptly."

Now many say it's time for North Carolina to move forward and repair its image.

"I think it's a great thing that they will repeal it and get rid of it, bring jobs back, push North Carolina back into the 21st century and bring the revenue back to the state," HB2 opponent Cretaun Ladson said.

Read more top trending stories on wsoctv.com: