The North Carolina House of Representatives followed the Senate's lead Thursday afternoon, voting 70-48 to repeal and replace the controversial House Bill 2. It passed the Senate earlier, 32-16. Although some thought the votes would be close, House Bill 142 passed in both houses with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
UPDATE 4:30 pm:
Governor Roy Cooper signed the bill into law Thursday afternoon. He said it immediately takes away restrictions on where transgender people can use the bathroom. And he says it will bring business back to the state.
"Companies that I have talked to, companies that I have recruited who were hesitant or refusing to bring businesses to our state, before the passage of today's bill, now are are telling me we are coming," Cooper said.
It wasn’t the “clean repeal” some HB 2 opponents were looking for. It includes a clause that says only the state legislature can regulate who has access to bathrooms and locker rooms – not local government, state agencies, universities or schools.
It also prohibits local governments from amending or adopting ordinances regulating private employment practices or public accommodations for three years, until December 2020. Previous attempts at a compromise included moratoriums lasting months, not years.
The debate in the House was at times contentious, with opponents from both sides of aisle urging a vote against the measure. But others said it was time for a compromise.
Rep. Carla Cunningham, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, said: "People in society will continue to demand their rights. Let us be mindful of all people as we make our decision. I ask for your support for the bill. Let’s start fresh today is that day.”
The Senate debate lasted only about 15 minutes, and had only three speakers. It was quick and almost choreographed, after days of work by Senate leaders to fashion a compromise that could pass.
Democratic leader Dan Blue was first up, saying, “This resets the conversation, as the title suggests.”
Blue urged fellow senators to support the bill, but said it’s only the first step in a statewide conversation that he hopes will “make sure everybody’s dignity is respected.”
Senate leader Phil Berger said it was time to make a deal, even if it wasn’t a good one.
“Compromise is sometimes difficult. This bill represents a compromise. I don’t know that there are many people who are extremely happy about exactly where we are. There are many folks that would express opinions that we should’ve done something else.”
And then there was Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte, who authored HB 2. He urged a “no” vote, saying the compromise was “a declaration of surrender, albeit three years in advance.” That referred to the moratorium on new local ordinances, which ends in 2020.
“It almost inescapably implies that 32 months hence, handfuls of local officials can use government power to coerce people to embrace an ideology of sexual ethics contrary to their values,” Bishop said.
The bill now goes to the House where it was being debated at midday Thursday, and where it could face a closer vote.
Earlier Thursday, a group of HB 2 opponents held a conference call with reporters to oppose the compromise.
“This so-called deal is no deal at all,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
He said it continues legal discrimination against LGBT people.
Griffin also said that lawyers he’s talked to think the bill is unconstitutional. He cited a 1996 case in which the Supreme Court struck down a Colorado law that banned local governments from passing laws to protect LGBT people.