HB2: Some options for compromise

by | Mar 2, 2017 | Editor's Blog, HB2 | 5 comments

It seems that most people in the General Assembly want to get rid of House Bill 2 despite accusations to the contrary from both sides. Sure, there are some social conservatives who would prefer to stand on principle while the reputation of the state goes down the tube, but most people are ready to move on.

Despite GOP claims, no Democrats wants the law to stick around. They see it as hurting the state and discriminatory against the LGBT community. Roy Cooper ran on getting rid of the bill and knows that there is no political upside for him to have the law in place when he runs for re-election.

The GOP mostly knows that the law cost them the governorship and attorney general’s office. They’ve been blamed and battered for over a year now. The leadership just wants it to go away.

Both sides are protecting key constituencies. The Republicans want to satisfy social conservatives who have long been feeling their world is under attack. They want the bill left intact. The Democrats want to protect the LGBT community who have suffered discrimination for centuries and have only found broad acceptance in the last decade or so. They want the bill fully repealed.

Right now, the compromise seems to be stuck on a referendum for local nondiscrimination ordinances. Democrats, me included, believe that rights should not be put up for a vote. Had Jim Crow laws been left to local referenda they would still be on the books in some areas. Some Democrats also believe the GOP cynically wants to use referenda to drive out their base by putting emotional social issues on the ballot. The GOP says it just wants to make sure its base voters have a means to prevent what they see as government forcing values on them.

So here are few ideas for compromise. First, to allay Democrats’ concerns about using referenda as political tools, agree that ballot measures only take place during odd-numbered years when municipal elections are already on the ballot. That makes sense. Vote on local issues during local elections

Second, require signatures from 25% of the registered voters in an area. Right now, Rep. Chuck McGrady’s bill allows a referendum with only 10% of the voters from the last municipal election. That’s a very low bar. The 25% threshold ensures that a large number of people want the nondiscrimination ordinance repealed. If that many people sign the petition, then there’s probably something wrong with the ordinance besides just protecting LGBT citizens and repealing it clearly has support from a cross section of the voters in the municipality.

Another compromise could be to add sunset clauses to any nondiscrimination ordinances passed by local governments. Require that they be re-approved after every municipal election. That way, municipal elections serve as a kind of proxy referendum for nondiscrimination ordinances. If NDOs are that big a deal, they will dominate the local elections.  On the other hand, if they’re not that important to people, they won’t play a big role in local elections.

Finally, I offered a compromise measure in an article back in April. Former Governor Jim Martin proposed a similar framework. I like these options best.

Regardless of the deal, HB2 needs to go. The conversation is at a stalemate. The law has done serious harm to our reputation and caused North Carolina to lose jobs and revenue. The voters are losing patience and will blame both sides if it’s not fixed. It’s time to get it done.


  1. Troy

    What are “civil rights?” Certainly we can mix and match meaning sometimes in everyday parlance and miss meaning as it is intended. However, according to Black’s, “Civil Rights” mean, “…the rights that are granted to every citizen of the United States by the constitution and all of its amendments. Equal protection is guaranteed to every one regardless of race, color (sic) and creed.” Rights in this country are not a guarantee from God, our fellow man, or the grip and grin politician. They are a guarantee from our government concerning our liberties and freedoms as citizens or as one who finds him or herself under the jurisdiction of the United States about how we are to be treated by government, what we can expect from government, and how we are protected from government.

    Therefore, there is no precedent for a referendum by voters about who is to be granted protection and who is not. It night sound oh so neat to give the people a ‘say.’ To that, I say “Yes” give the people a say. Encourage them to vote in every election and primary. Encourage them to learn what is going on in their respective communities by attending local council meetings and town halls.

    Based on what I’m reading, Thomas sounds as if he is offering a potential avenue to repeal of HB2. While that is an understandable concept, I lean toward what the others have said here; Norma, Bob, and Progressive have an excellent grasp of the reality of how this compromise to darkness can easily spin out of control if allowed to perpetuate itself.

    Its best to leave Pandora contained for all time if we can.

  2. Progressive Wing

    I agree with all of your post except this: “The voters are losing patience and will blame both sides if it’s not fixed. It’s time to get it done.”
    Yes, voters are losing patience, and, yes, it’s time for repeal.
    But, no, the NC voting electorate–taken as a whole–will not blame both sides equally if HB2 doesn’t go away.
    A plurality of NC voters will blame the NCGOP, who rammed HB2 through, who reneged on an earlier deal for repeal, and who let the law ding the state’s economy and reputation.

  3. Bob

    Thom, I liked your April idea. I don’t like your current proposal. 1.If people’s civil righs should not be up for a vote, then they should not be up for a vote. 2. Your current solution will keep little NC towns who don’t want protections for transgender people in the news as throwbacks, fairly or unfairly. 3. Voting on these protections will be manipulated by both sides for their own gain over and over. 4. Constant appeals by both sides won’t give this wound a chance to scab over. 5. Your current proposal is too complicated.

    At this point, NCGA should do a full repeal of HB2 with the exception of the bathroom portion. Some entities will continue to boycott the state, but NCGA leadership could make the argument that this is a contentious issue that NC believes it should pursue in the courts as a national test case. With Trump as president and appointing judges, they now have a good chance to win their case. That would be unfortunate but…. I think there would be enough GOP and Democratic support for this in case Coper decides to veto.

  4. Betty McGuire

    I agree 100% with what Norma Munn says. A referendum on a civil right is an outrageous idea. It cannot be a part of any HB2 repeal.

  5. Norma Munn

    Since I don’t want anyone having a vote to eliminate my civil rights, or to enshrine discrimination toward me, I can’t agree to the referendum aspect regardless of the percentage of signatures required.
    Would you have suggested any of this 60 years ago as a way to get rid of Jim Crow laws?
    I am also not sure that the sunset provision does anything except keep this issue on the front burner year after year, somewhat like abortion has been. I certainly don’t want every municipal election in Charlotte dominated by any form of HB2 or any other such local legislation.
    I appreciate the effort to find a compromise, but HB2 simply has to go.

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