Democratic lawmakers filed two separate bills Thursday to repeal HB2.
The bills come as sports officials have warned North Carolina could lose dozens of NCAA championship events if the controversial law is not repealed soon.
Despite that, much of the GOP majority in the N.C. House and Senate continue to oppose a full repeal or decline to commit on the issue.
House Bill 82, also filed in the Senate, calls for a complete repeal of the controversial law and the creation of a statewide nondiscrimination law that would include, among other protected categories, sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill could have a tough time with the Republican majority who have opposed gender sexual orientation and gender identity protections in municipalities and have said they want to prevent laws or ordinances that would allow people to choose public restrooms based on their gender identity.
“My hometown of Greensboro has suffered enormously from economic losses because of HB2, and the potential economic harm from the NCAA pull-out for the next 6 years is even greater.” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), one of the sponsors of the House legislation, in a statement.
“The bill introduced today is a clean repeal of HB2 and provides enhanced statewide non-discrimination protections,” Harrison said. “This bill reflects North Carolina values, unlike HB2. It is long overdue and we will work our hardest to enact this legislation.”
Harrison said she knows the bill, with its broad statewide protections, will be an uphill battle.
“It’s going to be tough, but we have to start somewhere,” Harrison said in an interview Thursday. “Repealing HB2 really isn’t enough at this point.”
Most North Carolinians would be surprised to learn that it’s legal to deny someone housing or a job because they are gay, older or a veteran, Harrison said.
“I feel like we have to address that – legal discrimination not just against LGBT people but a number of classes that aren’t covered right now,” Harrison said.
Sen. Terry Van Duyn (D-Buncombe) sponsored the Senate legislation.
“HB2 denies equal protections to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters,” Van Duyn said. “It targets them, and excludes them from the same rights and assurances many of us take for granted. I cannot ignore the unfair and unequal persecution of some members of my community while enjoying protections that they don’t have.”
“HB2 codifies the marginalization of people just because of who they are,” she said. “That kind of discrimination is not only cruel, but it is bad for North Carolina and it is bad for business. It is time that we repeal HB2 and reaffirm that every citizen in North Carolina deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams and to be treated with equal respect. Then we can say North Carolina is truly open for business.”
House Bill 78 is more of a compromise. It repeals HB2 and also provides for specific housing, employment , insurance and education protections. It also increases penalties for the sorts of sexual assaults GOP lawmakers have said may result from allowing people to use restrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity rather than the sex assigned at birth.
That’s an idea a number of compromise-minded GOP lawmakers floated last year when looking for a way to pass a repeal.
Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford) is the sponsor of HB78. Brockman, who is bisexual, is one of only two openly LGBT lawmakers in the General Assembly.
“H.B. 2 has been a disaster since day one for North Carolina,” Brockman said. “It was predicated on fear and paranoia toward an already marginalized community and led to enormous economic loss. It is well past time that we have a full repeal of this discriminatory bill and start moving forward.”
Brockman said he hopes his bill will appeal to Republicans as well as Democrats.
“My bill will enact real protections for North Carolinians by increasing penalties for sexual crimes while also adding the LGBT community to statewide non-discrimination laws,” Brockman said. “One of my goals is to meet my Republican colleagues at their concerns. Anybody who is serious about protecting our citizens and repairing our state’s economy and image should support this bill.”
The two separate bills were initially conceived as one, several sources close to their drafting said Thursday. Disagreement among House and Senate Democrats and LGBT groups led to both being filed separately on the same day. There was concern that adding the provisions about sexual assault might cloud the issues around HB2’s repeal and play into an assertion that the bill actually does protect people from sexual predators – something Democrats have objected to from the beginning.
Groups opposing HB2 praised HB82.
“It’s a fact that every single day, HB2 has hurt our economy. It’s a fact, that lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and especially transgender people, like myself, are at direct risk for discrimination and even violence because of this awful law.” said Equality NC Director of Transgender Policy Ames Simmons.
“Repealing HB2 is just the first step to fixing our state and making sure we are open for business,” said Simmons. “Our goal should not be mediocracy but excellence. We need fully inclusive, comprehensive non-discrimination protections. Senator Berger and House Speaker Moore must immediately repeal HB2, and enact common sense protections.”
“The economic fallout over HB2 continues to mount, and it’s far past time for lawmakers to take action by repealing and replacing this vile, reckless law,” said Human Rights Campaign Field Director Marty Rouse.
“The only law in the nation that mandates discrimination against transgender people, HB2 is an unprecedented attack on LGBTQ North Carolinians and visitors to the state,” Rouse said. “By repealing it and replacing it with fully inclusive, commonsense non-discrimination protections, the state can finally begin to repair the incredible harm HB2 has caused.”
Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for ACLU of North Carolina, said the new protections bring the state “closer to guaranteeing that all North Carolinians are treated equally under the law.”
“It’s long past time for the General Assembly to repeal the hateful House Bill 2, which has brought so much harm to our state and its people, and to take much-needed steps toward protecting LGBT North Carolinians from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity in many areas of their lives,” Gillooly said.
“H.B. 2 sends a terrible message that LGBT people, particularly transgender people, aren’t worthy of equal treatment,” said Simone Bell, Southern Regional Director at Lambda Legal. “It’s a stain that continues to damage the economy as well as the image of North Carolina and its people. The repeal and replacement of H.B. 2 with this new bill, a real non-discrimination bill, a bill that recognizes the contributions LGBT North Carolinians make to this state, is a critical and essential step forward.”