City Council votes to fully repeal nondiscrimination ordinance

HB2 repeal bill proposed, with 6-month cool-off

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte city leaders have held an emergency meeting and taken more action designed to get a statewide law off the books that limits LGBT rights and designates which restrooms transgender people can use in public schools and government buildings.

To show lawmakers in Raleigh they're serious about repealing House Bill Two, city council members voted to scrap the current nondiscrimination ordinance and only use the underlying ordinance, which dates back to 1968, even if HB2 isn't overturned.

City Council voted 7-2 on Wednesday to repeal the entire city ordinance that members passed in February. It's part of a deal to get the state legislature to repeal House Bill 2 in a special session later in the day.

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While the ordinance still protects against discrimination based on characteristics like race, religion and gender, protections will no longer exist for discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The council already had acted on Monday to throw out parts of the ordinance addressing the expansion of protections on things such as sexual orientation and gender identity when it came to public accommodations.

But some House Republicans are unhappy that Charlotte left in place some expanded non-discrimination protections required of businesses entering contracts with the city. The council's action Wednesday is designed to address their concerns.

Mayor Jennifer Roberts sent a letter to City Council calling for the emergency meeting, stating that the purpose of the meeting "is to consider the adoption of ordinances related to nondiscrimination and HB2."

At the end of the meeting, Council voted to fully repeal the Charlotte ordinance, and the city released the following statement:

“Today, the Charlotte City Council took additional steps to ensure the repeal of HB2 would not be jeopardized in any way. They voted 7-2 to fully repeal the ordinance adopted Feb. 22, 2016. The City Council acted in good faith to do everything that it understood was necessary to facilitate the repeal of HB2.” 

After Charlotte City Council moved quickly Monday to repeal the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance, Channel 9 learned Tuesday that there were two parts of the ordinance still intact.

A city source told Channel 9 there are three parts to the city’s ordinance.

The first two parts deal with discrimination policies for passenger vehicles for hire and city contractors.

The third part involves public accommodations, including bathrooms.

According to the city source, the third section is the only part that was repealed.

Two City Council members told Channel 9 Tuesday night that they weren’t aware they didn’t repeal the entire ordinance earlier in the week.

Another City Council member told Channel 9 that the other two sections of the ordinance weren’t repealed because they weren’t preempted by HB2.

The revelation risks jeopardizing a potential HB2 repeal Wednesday.

“The issue is communication and understanding what's been repealed and are the right pieces rescinded,” Republican State Sen. Jeff Tarte said.

Tarte said it's frustrating the entire ordinance wasn't eliminated.

He says that may lead to longer discussion but he still predicts HB2 will ultimately be repealed.

“I can't imagine that that would be the issue we stub our toe on,” he said.

Tarte is in favor of repealing HB2.

With as hot of a topic as HB2 is, sources tell Channel 9 this has the potential to thwart the repeal.

Democratic City Council member at large, Claire Fallon, hopes the council's partial action doesn't hold up the state.

“The main thing is to get rid of the main thing that they object to,” Fallon said.  “Everything else can be taken care of after if it is a problem.”

Late Tuesday night, republican City Council member and chairman of the Intergovernmental Relations Committee Ed Driggs defended the city’s vote Monday.

“There are media reports tonight that contend that the action Charlotte took yesterday to remove its non-discrimination ordinance only removed part of the ordinance and intentionally left other parts in place,” Driggs said. “The City Council acted in good faith to do everything that it understood was necessary to facilitate the repeal of HB2.”

Driggs said Charlotte City Council is willing to address any of the General Assembly’s concerns about the ordinance at a meeting on Monday.

“There was no effort on the part of Council to preserve or protect any portion of the City Code that was in conflict with that understanding,” Driggs said. “If the General Assembly needs us to consider doing more, we ask for a clear explanation of exactly what that entails.  If necessary, Charlotte City Council will act to address any unintended omissions from the ordinance it passed on Monday.”

Overnight, Dallas Woodhouse, the head of the North Carolina Republican party, blasted Charlotte leaders for what he called an incomplete repeal of the city's nondiscrimination ordinance.

Woodhouse posted the following on his Facebook page:

"Roy Cooper and Charlotte City Council Democrats lied directly to the people of North Carolina, the Legislature and Gov. McCrory about repealing the Charlotte City Council ordinance that caused HB2. They and they alone created this problem and have now seriously harmed HB2 repeal efforts. Roy Cooper, who on Monday claimed all the credit for Charlotte's action, now must answer the question of what did he know and when did he know it? He must answer the question of why he lied to everyone, and why he provided the lying Charlotte Democrats cover to do so as well. Governor McCrory called a special session for repeal, based on good faith when Roy Cooper and Charlotte Democrats announced to the world a full repeal of the Charlotte ordinance. However, they lied. The HB2 blood is now stain soaked on their hands and theirs alone. What a dishonest, disgraceful shame by Roy Cooper and Charlotte Democrats. The press was also forced into reporting a lie, based on the false statement of the Rory Cooper Charlotte City Council Democrats, which was extremely unfair to them."

Special session for a potential HB2 repeal is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m.

What North Carolina's wide-ranging 'bathroom bill' covers

North Carolina lawmakers will hold a special session Wednesday to consider the repeal of a law passed earlier this year that limits protections for LGBT people.

The law has been widely opposed by numerous businesses, organizations and individuals. Gov. Pat McCrory's defense of the bill was a contributing factor in his narrow loss to Democrat Roy Cooper, who will take office in January and announced Monday that he had a deal with legislators to get rid of the law.

The passage of House Bill 2 in March thrust North Carolina into a national debate on transgender rights and harmed the state economically. The state missed out on new jobs as companies declined to expand in the state, while cancellations of concerts and conventions exacted a toll. The NBA moved its All-Star game to New Orleans, and in a huge symbolic blow to the college basketball-crazy state, the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference relocated events.

Repeal of the law could also end legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents.

Passage of the state law was a reaction to the city of Charlotte passing a broad nondiscrimination ordinance the state GOP opposed. On Monday, the city voted to undo its ordinance - provided the legislature repeal HB2 by the end of the year.

One part of the original law has already been done away with. HB2 initially prohibited employees of private businesses from filing lawsuits in state courts alleging workplace discrimination but the legislature amended the law to reinstate that right.

Here are the three main sections of the law:

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PUBLIC ACCOMODATIONS

The law blocked a range of protections from taking effect in the state's largest city. Charlotte's ordinance would have covered gays and lesbians as well as bisexual and transgender people when they try to check into hotels, eat in restaurants or hail cabs; it also added marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the city's list of protected characteristics in public accommodations and commercial businesses.

The state law instead created a new statewide public accommodations policy that prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex. But the law includes no specific LGBT protections, essentially preventing local governments from in the future approving ordinances similar to what Charlotte approved.

Weeks after the law's passage, McCrory did issue an executive order that expanded protections based on sexual orientation and gender orientation to state workers who work for the state's executive branch.

The law also forbids cities and counties throughout North Carolina from imposing any additional requirements on employers. A handful of local governments had made veterans a protected class, and this is no longer allowed.

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BATHROOM USE

Essentially, government agencies of all kinds must direct men and boys to multi-stall restrooms and locker rooms designated for use by people born as male, and keep women and girls in those designated for the female biological sex.

This applies to public schools, state university and community college systems, state agencies and local government offices.

Single-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities are still allowed "upon a request due to special circumstances" to a local school board or by a person to a public agency. The decision on accommodating the request appears to rest with the school board or the agency.

There are exceptions, such as when preschoolers enter a restroom with their mother or father, or when a person with a disability needs assistance. Transgender people who have obtained a new birth certificate after a sex-change operation can enter the multi-occupancy bathroom that matches their new gender.

But just how individuals should apply and enforce the new rules is unaddressed in the law.

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WORKPLACE RULES

The law also reaffirmed 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 an hour. Cities and counties also can't enforce ordinances setting their own minimum standards for businesses for paid sick leave or other employee benefits, and can't require government contractors to meet public accommodations standards above those set in state law.

Cities and counties can continue to set higher wage and benefit minimums for their own workers, or for company workers when required as part of an economic recruitment and incentives agreement.