CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Feeling pressure from the loss of major events, North Carolina Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory have offered a deal to Charlotte: we’ll consider rescinding a state law limiting LGBT anti-discrimination protections, but you must first repeal the city ordinance that led to House Bill 2.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts applauded the governor Monday for recognizing the need to repeal the law prompting boycotts of North Carolina, but said lawmakers can rescind H.B. 2 anytime they want to, whether or not Charlotte backs down on its effort to expand protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Meanwhile, she said the council would not reconsider its ordinance at its Monday meeting.
“We are not prepared to add this item to our agenda this evening, however, we urge the state to take action as soon as possible and encourage continued dialogue with the broader community,” Roberts said in a release.
The mayor’s response follows a weekend in which GOP lawmakers and McCrory floated the idea of a special General Assembly session to take the state law off the books. But they said House Bill 2 wouldn’t have been needed if Charlotte hadn’t first overreached.
“We believe that if the Charlotte City Council rescinds its ordinance there would be support in our caucuses to return state law to where it was pre-H.B. 2,” House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger said in a statement Sunday night.
The state law was passed in March in response to Charlotte’s ordinance the month before expanding anti-discrimination protections such as sexual orientation and sexual identity to cover public accommodations including city hotels, restaurants and retailers.
The state law blocked Charlotte and all local governments from passing similar rules and directed transgender people to use bathrooms and showers in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
National criticism from gay-rights groups, corporate CEOs and politicians led to the cancellations of events and lawsuits to overturn the law. The NBA pulled its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte.
Last spring, legislative leaders said the Charlotte ordinance needed to be gone before any significant modifications would be considered to the state law. The city council declined to do so at the time. But efforts at a resolution intensified last week after the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference took championships away from North Carolina because of the law, including the ACC football title game in Charlotte.
Charlotte’s business leaders and the state’s restaurant and lodging association have been urging a “reset” by repealing both the ordinance and the law.
But equal rights advocates have urged city leaders to stand firm behind the ordinance, saying the loss of economic activity and any damage to the state’s reputation is the fault of McCrory and lawmakers who passed the law, not Charlotte.
“Mayor Jennifer Roberts didn’t sign H.B. 2. The NBA didn’t sign H.B. 2,” said state Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford and executive director of Equality North Carolina, said in a Monday release. “Pat McCrory alone signed the bill that has cost us millions.”
McCrory has been the law’s most high-profile defender, citing bathroom privacy concerns. He’s blamed the fallout on politics — he’s in a tough re-election bid against Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, who opposes the law.
Cooper said Monday that McCrory should call a special session Monday to repeal the law, and blasted the governor for not showing leadership. “The damage to our economy must be stopped and it is clear that full repeal of H.B. 2 will accomplish this,” Cooper’s statement said.
The city council holds its next regular public meeting Sept. 26.
Robertson reported from Raleigh, NC.