On Thursday, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to pass HB 142, a deal struck by Republican legislative leaders and Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who ran his campaign on a full repeal of HB 2, the discriminatory anti-trans and anti-worker bill passed a little over a year ago. In a joint statement released Wednesday night, Senate President Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore said they were “pleased this proposal protects bathroom safety and privacy,” while Cooper said it wasn’t a “perfect deal,” but it “begins to repair our reputation.”
After several of attempts, legislators were pushed by the NCAA’s Tuesday announcement that the state had two days to repeal HB 2 or face losing championship and tournament games through 2022. For enough legislators, the pitch worked this time. But make no mistake about it: Despite being framed as a “repeal,” the new policy is still very much discriminatory, and doesn’t grant anything close to fair and equal treatment under the law for transgender people.
While the deal did technically repeal HB 2—commonly known as the bathroom bill, it also did grave damage to civil rights. The new law prevents any state agencies—including local school boards—from creating their own rules allowing trans people to use the bathroom associated with their gender unless the rule is “in accordance” with a law passed by the General Assembly. Given the Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the Legislature, won with “illegal racial gerrymanders,” don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. Moreover, it put into place a four-year moratorium on creating or amending non-discrimination ordinances regulating public accommodations and “private employment practices”—i.e., living-wage ordinances.
The bill’s passage could also influence the ongoing negotiations in Texas to pass a similar bill, SB 6, as well as other states that could consider an anti-trans bill. “What happens in North Carolina is profoundly important for the lives of trans people across this country,” ACLU of North Carolina policy director Sarah Gillooly told The Nation. “What happens here today has profound implications for what happens in Texas or elsewhere.”
Virtually no one liked the bill. On the right, the powerful social conservative interest group NC Values Coalition released a statement in the morning “encouraging lawmakers to stand strong” in support of HB 2. Although they were outnumbered, 33 House Republicans and 10 Senate conservatives ended up voting against the final bill.