Here are three simple truths about yesterday’s on again, off again circus at the state Legislative Building at which state lawmakers wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars and person hours and further damaged the state’s reputation in an unsuccessful special session that was supposed to have repealed North Carolina’s all-purpose LGBT discrimination law, HB2:
#1 – The notion pushed by Senate leader Phil Berger and others that Democrats and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper were somehow responsible for the failure is utterly preposterous. Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore preside over massive Republican super-majorities in both houses of the General Assembly. The Republicans could have held yesterday’s session and passed whatever they wanted without the Democrats having even been present. Berger only needs a little over 70% of his own caucus to pass anything. At virtually no time in the past six years have Republicans sought Democratic votes — or even Democratic input — on any matter. Now, seeking to repeal their most disastrous law, they need Democratic help? Give us a break.
#2 – If anything, Cooper and the Charlotte City Council bent over backwards too far. As was noted in this space repeatedly last spring and summer when similar proposals were floated to predicate an HB2 “repeal” on Charlotte backing down from its equality ordinance, such a plan was highly questionable from the outset. There was no good reason to repeal the Charlotte ordinance. It had already been invalidated by HB2 and, even more importantly, it had always been a sound and essential public policy. It had been enacted after weeks and weeks of public meetings and testimony during which numerous citizens spoke of the need to protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment and public accommodations. Nonetheless, in an extraordinary gesture to seek compromise requested by the Governor-elect (a move that many now see with some justification as naive), the Council rescinded the ordinance this week before any action was taken by the General Assembly and with (apparently) no written guarantee of a quid pro quo.
#3 – Conservatives never really wanted repeal. This is the ultimate truth about HB2, of course. As soon as rumors of a repeal (even Berger and Moore’s lame proposal of a quasi-repeal that would have taken effect in 6 or 8 months) emerged, the religious right turned apoplectic and used all of its powers within GOP circles to save their treasured monument to discrimination. That’s why Berger couldn’t even pass his disingenuous “cooling off period” proposal: conservatives in his own ranks wouldn’t support it. And when Democrats rightfully balked at what they saw as a clear double-cross, the whole thing fell apart.
The bottom line: HB2 was, is and always will be a terrible stain on North Carolina’s national and international reputation. It has damaged thousands of lives and cost billions of dollars. Tragically, however, the conservative powers that be in this state do not see it this way. And as long as these people retain complete control over the levers of political power and adhere to their backward and bigoted views, things are unlikely to improve.