Democrats shouldn’t fall for the referendum trap

by | Feb 24, 2017 | Editor's Blog, HB2 | 3 comments

North Carolina has its own version of repeal and replace going on. It’s not about health care reform, though; it’s about House Bill 2. A bill floating around the General Assembly would repeal certain bad parts of House Bill 2 and replace them other bad options. Democrats shouldn’t fall for the trap.

The version unveiled this week would prevent regulations on bathrooms while allowing local governments to pass limited nondiscrimination ordinances. But there’s a catch. The ordinances could not be implemented until 90 days after they were passed and any citizen who opposes the ordinance could call for a referendum. That should be a deal-breaker.

First, our country does not put the rights of citizens up for a vote of the people. We built a nation based on protecting rights, not restricting them. Allowing a vote on nondiscrimination ordinances is little more than offering tyranny of the majority.

Second, a referendum that denied protection of LGBT citizens would still keep businesses away. If they’re not coming because of discrimination passed by the General Assembly, they’re not coming because of discrimination that’s been put on the ballot. Besides, referendums across the state just give us opportunities for negative publicity every time one is held. Why would we want to remind people of this embarrassing episode over and over again?

Finally, the referendums are a trap for Democrats. They offer an emotional issue that will drive social conservatives to polls in droves. In years like 2018, when Republicans will have less reason to go vote, referendums across the state would drive their voters to the ballot box. You can bet that Republicans would strategically call for referendums when they needed a boost in turnout. No Democrat should support a measure that significantly increases the likelihood that Republicans maintain their veto proof majorities in the House and Senate.

HB2 needs to go. It should have never been passed in the first place. That said, Republicans should have upheld their end of the bargain in December and repealed it then. They had another chance earlier this month when Roy Cooper offered a compromise bill that the GOP rejected. The bill floating around now is no compromise. It’s repeal and replace with more bad ideas. Any bill with a referendum should be a deal-breaker.


  1. Albert G

    The legislature is already suggesting a number of constitutional amendments to draw folks out of the woodwork, from limits on state income tax to term limits. One way or another they will get them on the 2018 ballot and use them to attract voters that might not otherwise be interested.

  2. Neal F. Rattican

    There are always referenda on ordinances/laws passed by governments, local and otherwise; they’re called elections.

  3. Stephen Lewis, Sr.

    I am not sure what the party should do about HB2. They have passed a few resolutions on a party platform, but party platforms and a quarter will buy you a cup of coffee not much else. We can say that the bill should just be repealed and never should have been passed, but the bill is not just gonna be repealed anytime soon. We can hope that there is a public revolt against it, and right now that could happen but I am have my doubts it will. So what do we do, I don’t know in order to get some kind of repeal anytime soon the Democrats are going to have to give something up. Other wise its going to stay one the books and we are all going to be stuck in a political ground hog day.

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