Lt. Governor Dan Forest has gone down to Texas to promote the Lone Star State’s version of HB2. In the eyes of Forest and social conservatives across the nation, the law is a booming success. In their view, it may be costing North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars in business, but it’s turning back the clock on the immorality of LGBT protections and marriage equality.
Forest and his chief ally Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition have put pressure on Republicans to reject any compromise to repeal HB2. Republicans like to blame Cooper but that’s wrong. It’s the culture warriors in the GOP, led by Forest and Fitzgerald, who are gumming up the works. They are holding both Republican caucuses hostage.
Republican Rep. Chuck McGrady offered a compromise bill last week that included, among other things, a referendum on local non-discrimination ordinances. He called it a starting point for negotiations and had several Democrats sign on to the bill. Cooper and Democratic House Leader Darren Jackson initially rejected the referendum portion of the bill but said they would continue negotiating. Unfortunately, House Speaker Tim Moore ended the conversation.
Republicans howled that Democrats killed the deal but that’s not what happened. Moore didn’t have the votes among his caucus to support McGrady’s bill without any compromise. In fact, rumor has it that social conservatives threatened to primary McGrady merely for his attempt at repeal. Compromise was never really part of the equation.
Democrats have 45 votes of the 61 needed in the House to pass a repeal bill. Republicans only need to provide 16 more votes, only about 20% of their members. On the Senate side, Republicans only need to provide 11 votes. If they can’t do that with their huge legislative majorities, then they clearly own House Bill 2 heading into 2018 and Dan Forest emerges from this fight the most influential Republican in the state. That bodes well for making Roy Cooper a two-term governor.