I’m not going to write much more about the HB2 repeal bill but after spending too much time on social media this weekend, I need to get this off my chest. I don’t know if I would have voted for the repeal bill had I been in the General Assembly. I’ve got too many LGBT family and friends to take state-sanctioned discrimination lightly and the bill fell far short of where I believe North Carolina should be. But I’m not in the legislature and I didn’t have to make that choice.
That said, I don’t hold anyone who voted for it in the contempt I’ve seen on twitter and Facebook this weekend. Every Democrat who supported the measure would have also voted for full repeal had it been an option. But it wasn’t and it isn’t going to be until Democrats control the legislature again.
Contrary to a narrative pushed by some progressives, Republicans didn’t need HB2 repealed. In fact, opposition to any repeal was increasing according to the Republicans with whom I spoke. Lt. Governor Dan Forest and Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, were pressuring legislators to stand firm against any compromise. Forest was using the issue to grab the mantle of leader of the GOP and solidify his position as the front-runner to oppose Roy Cooper in 2020.
Democratic and Republican leaders believed the window of opportunity to repeal the bill was closing. Once the NCAA deadline passed, no high-profile event could keep the issue in the public eye and put pressure on members of the legislature to act. A year from now, the boycott would still be in effect but the headlines of companies not coming to the state would be gone. Activists might still be protesting but much of the general public would have moved on. The deal they got was not what Phil Berger or Tim Moore would accept; it was what Republican rank-and-file members would give.
Politically, HB2 was damaging to Republicans because it was a bad bill that harmed the state’s reputation and economy. The punch it carried in 2016 came as much from the ACC and NCAA announcing they were withdrawing tournaments six weeks before the election as anything in the bill itself. It kept the issue alive in the minds of voters who may have approved of some of the bill’s tenets but believed it was poorly implemented. Those factors wouldn’t enter into 2018, especially if the economy continues to grow.
Democrats need a wave election to take back the legislature in one election cycle. If that happens in 2018, it will be because of a failing presidency, not because of HB2 or any other state legislation. And if that wave comes, the rest of HB2 will be repealed on the first day of the legislative session in January 2019. That’s as soon as it will ever happen.
Democrats could have certainly stood on principle and resisted the compromise. They probably wouldn’t have gotten any better deal. Nondiscrimination ordinances in counties and towns that are in effect today would still be invalid. And HB2 would stay on the books until that wave comes. And if it doesn’t come in the 2018 or 2020, those nondiscrimination ordinances that now offer protections to LGBT citizens in places like Asheville, Durham, Greensboro, Boone and Carrboro might not be in effect for another decade or more.
The legislators who took those votes for the partial repeal did so hoping to move the ball forward and to restore protections that were taken away. They didn’t sellout the LGBT community. They did what they thought was best, even if it they knew it wasn’t enough. If they do find themselves in primaries, I’ll stand by them.