RALEIGH (AP) — More North Carolina House members have signed on to a bipartisan bill that sponsors call a compromise to eliminate a law curtailing LGBT rights and limiting which public restrooms transgender people can use.
By late Thursday, 19 lawmakers — five Democrats and 14 Republicans — had co-sponsored the measure to repeal what’s known as House Bill 2.
Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, along with Reps. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, Marvin Lucas, D-Cumberland, and Ted Davis, R-New Hanover, are the primary sponsors.
Goodman said Thursday night that the past two attempts to repeal HB2 have failed because of those on the extreme right, who like the law as it is, and legislators on the extreme left, who have an “all or nothing” attitude.
“It’s caused so much of a negative economic impact on the state,” said Goodman, who is also chairman of the Main Street Democrats. “I’m hoping this will put some pressure on both parties…to get something done.”
However, it’s not a simple repeal. The bill would restore restrictions on local governments that seek to extend anti-discrimination protections. The state also would still have power over policies involving multi-stall bathrooms. There’s no word yet about if and when the bill will get a hearing.
“It’s a good compromise,” Goodman said. “It doesn’t make anybody completely happy, so that tells me it’s probably a good bill.”
The legislation gained support Thursday from two key business organizations — the North Carolina Chamber and the NC Realtors group.
Gay-rights groups and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the proposal after it was filed late Wednesday, and the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union offered a similar critique in opposition Thursday. They have all pushed for a simple repeal.
Goodman said that if the governor doesn’t get on board, then other Democrats won’t support it.
The socially conservative North Carolina Values Coalition also panned the measure Thursday but wants HB2 to stay in place. Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald criticized bill language that would allow cities to pass ordinances expanding anti-discrimination ordinances beyond what’s in state policy.
HB2 is “the only way to ensure that privacy, dignity, and common sense rule in North Carolina,” Fitzgerald said in a release.
Any measure would have to pass both the House and Senate with strong majorities in order to withstand a potential Cooper veto. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told reporters Thursday he generally doesn’t comment on House bills until they reach his chamber, but “I’m actually pleased that there are folks trying to find compromises.” Berger has repeatedly blamed Cooper for scuttling a repeal agreement in December, but the new governor said Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore failed to keep their side of the bargain.
Lew Ebert, chief executive of the N.C. Chamber, said his group was “encouraged and supportive” of the bill “as a bipartisan effort to move toward a resolution.” Realtors association CEO Andrea Bushnell said “this compromise is reasonable and protects all citizens of North Carolina.”
In opposing the measure, state ACLU policy director Sarah Gillooly in part cited a provision that could require a referendum on a city’s proposed expansion for anti-discrimination protections, such as for sexual orientation and gender identity, if enough registered voters request one.
The bill “still sanctions discrimination against transgender people and makes it harder for local governments to protect LGBT people under the law,” Gillooly said.