House Bill Number Two – otherwise known as the Bathroom Bill – has been described as a dark cloud that has hung over North Carolina for more than a year.
It’s one Governor Roy Cooper admits has stained his state’s reputation:
“It has discriminated against our people, and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities. Today, we repealed House Bill 2, and we begin to end discrimination in North Carolina. We begin to bring back jobs and sporting events. We begin to repair our reputation. It’s an important step, but it cannot be the only step.”
The law – the only one of its kind in the United States – has cost the economy hundreds of millions of dollars after businesses, entertainers and sporting teams boycotted the state in protest.
The list of those avoiding North Carolina included rock icon Bruce Springsteen, the bands Pearl Jam and Boston as well as circus performers Cirque de Soleil.
Major basketball, swimming and golf events have also been lost to the state, as well as the presence of leading banks and technology companies.
Under the compromise, General Assembly Speaker Tim Moore, representing the Republican-dominated Senate and House of Representatives, says cities will still be banned from passing their own non-discrimination laws until 2020.
“And the one thing that I keep hearing from folks back home and all around this state was protect the bathrooms and make sure you didn’t have cities getting into the business of trying to go out here and do things above and beyond what what we have as a state, and I think we succeeded in doing that.”
But that could yet prove a sticking point to getting business back to North Carolina, with civil rights groups opposing the deal because of that provision.
Governor Roy Cooper concedes the compromise is far from perfect.
“It stops short of many things we need to do as a state. In a perfect world, with a good General Assembly, we would have repealed House Bill 2 fully today, and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians. Unfortunately, our super-majority Republican legislature will not pass these protections, but this is an important goal that I will keep fighting for.”
Speaker Tim Moore says it’s a measured bill and, importantly, one that can be defended in the courts against any claims it breaches discrimination laws.
“I think it is something that the public supports. This, of course, was a bipartisan compromise. Nobody is ever 100 per cent happy, but I will say I’m 95 per cent happy with what this bill does. I think it’s a great, great step forward.”
Under the new law, transgender people are free to use the bathroom of their choice.
But they will also have no recourse should any person, business or state authority eject them.
The changes haven’t satisfied transgender support groups and it remains uncertain if they’ll bring back lost business to North Carolina.
Leading companies and sporting groups that led the boycott are still considering whether the compromise is enough for them to return.