RALEIGH — Within minutes of a surprise move by the Charlotte City Council to repeal sections of its non-discrimination ordinance, Governor Pat McCrory and governor-elect Roy Cooper announced a special session for Tuesday to take up a full repeal of HB2, North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill.”
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts told council members that Cooper, who takes office Jan. 1, had assured her that a full repeal would be possible if the council acted.
Cooper issued a statement after the Charlotte vote saying legislative leaders promised him they would take up full repeal of the law, which lawmakers passed in a March special session to nullify the Charlotte ordinance and prevent cities and counties from adopting similar ordinances.
“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 HB 2 in full,” Cooper said in the statement.
“I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the Legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full.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.”
After its passage in a special session, the state law triggered a strong national and international backlash and lead to numerous cancelations of business expansions. Several high profile championships for the NCAA and ACC, as well as the NBA All Star-Game, moved out of state.
McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor who continued to back the law through a bruising governor’s race against Attorney General Cooper, said he would keep his agreement to call a session if Charlotte repealed its ordinance. In his statement, McCrory, who took a month to concede to Cooper in the nation’s closest governor’s race, stuck to the narrative he used during his campaign that Democrats have blocked the repeal.
“Gov. 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, the governor’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.”
Roberts and Charlotte council members had declined to take up previous offers by the General Assembly, saying the city leaders were wary that legislators would stop short of a full repeal.
The change that the council adopted Monday morning makes the repeal of the city’s ordinance contingent on a full repeal of HB2 by December 31, McCrory’s last day in office.
Although planned for Tuesday, legislative leaders have not released a schedule for the session. It would be the fifth special session of the year, the most in North Carolina in the post-Civil War era.
The Charlotte city ordinance prevented discrimination against transgender individuals seeking to use public restrooms of their gender identity rather than their biological sex. HB2 reversed this, providing for public restroom use based on biological sex and preventing local government actions to alter this plan.
With both laws removed from the books, the situation in North Carolina would return to where it stood previously, with the law silent on who could use which bathroom.