Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, was among those urging the Charlotte City Council to keep in place the non-discrimination ordinance, which the North Carolina Legislature cited as the reason for enacting House Bill 2.
“Let me be clear: There will never be a day where it is acceptable to sacrifice the rights of LGBT people, women, people of color and other citizens for the sake of scoring political points,” Griffin said. “Doing so would not only be ineffective, it would an affront to the values that we all hold dear as Americans.”
Calling action by a city council to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance “unprecedented,” Griffin said the Charlotte ordinance is identical to hundreds of others in the majority of major cities throughout the country, including one in Minneapolis that in 1975 was the first one ever enacted.
Signed into law by North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory after a single day of deliberation by the state legislature, HB 2 undoes all pro-LGBT city non-discrimination ordinances in the state, including the one recently enacted in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.
In protest over the law, businesses have cancelled expansions in North Carolina and performers have cancelled shows there, resulting in an estimated loss of $567 million to the state, according to the Center for American Progress.
With McCrory and the legislature remaining in bunker mode and refusing to budge on the law, local media reports emerged in the past week indicating a possible compromise in which lawmakers would undo House Bill 2 after Charlotte repeals its ordinance.
Leading the call for a compromise is Bob Morgan, CEO of the Charlotte Chamber, who urged the city to take action to compromise in an open letter published Sunday to alleviate economic loss to the state.
“We fear that if the City Council doesn’t take a first step, the crushing economic suffering, much of it hurting low wage hospitality workers, will continue for years while the courts ultimately resolve the issue,” Morgan writes.
Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, on the conference call urged Charlotte “not to be bullied into taking any action,” saying it would only give to cover to McCrory and supporters of the anti-LGBT law.
“With all of the damage they’ve done to their state, with all of the damage they’ve done to transgender people, they are now looking for the Charlotte city council to wrongly accept the blame and give cover to this breathtakingly failed leadership,” Keisling said.
As a result of the state law, Keisling said transgender people are in danger across the country and cited a recent report in D.C. in which a Giant Food security guard forcibly ejected a transgender woman from the public restroom, then was arrested for assault.
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina and newly seated lawmaker in the North Carolina State House, said ordinances like the one in Charlotte are “a recruitment tool” for attracting business and thus shouldn’t be repealed.
“This is not about compromise,” Sgro said. “This is an unprecedented and ill-hashed political stunt to distract from HB 2, and we must not fall for it. It’s another step in McCrory, Berger and Moore’s blame game.”
Sgro cited media reports the city council could take action as soon as Monday evening to initiate the compromise, but had no other information. LGBT advocates say the details of the compromise are a mystery because they have no information about what it would look like, nor a timeframe for when either city or the legislature would act.
The offices of Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, the Charlotte Chamber, McCrory, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger didn’t respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment Monday on details for any proposed compromise.
The Charlotte City Council enacted its pro-LGBT ordinance in February by a vote of 7-4 after LGBT advocates assisted in the election of council members who supported the measure. Under a different makeup last year, the council had rejected the same measure by a 6-5 vote.
Asked whether LGBT advocates would work to unseat council members who accept an HB 2 compromise and vote to repeal the ordinance, Griffin replied, “Let me just say, we would cross that bridge if we have to.”
“It is my hope, and I’m cautiously optimistic, that the Charlotte City Council members will stand up and do the right thing,” Griffin said. “They are being bulled today by Bob Morgan, the governor, the speaker and the president of the Senate. It is so important for everyone on this call to understand the chamber is carrying the water for Pat McCrory.”
One possibility for an end to HB 2 is litigation against the law, including a lawsuit recently filed by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Alternatively, repeal could happen if McCrory is unseated as governor and Republicans lose their majority in the 2016 election, allowing Democrats in the next session to act.
In response to a question from the Washington Blade on whether the Charlotte City Council should hold off on action until after the election, Sgro said the legislature has the power to act now.
“The conversations that are happening need to happen at the legislature, and they need to be happening right now around repeal,” Sgro said. “I believe that there are Republicans in both chambers in the North Carolina General Assembly who would vote for the repeal of House Bill 2 if it were put before a vote today, and I think that that is the reason why we are seeing Berger and Moore through the chamber try to fool the Charlotte City Council, so that they don’t have to take that vote.”
Keisling said Charlotte should hold firm and resist the temptation to repeal its ordinance regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election.
“If Charlotte repeals this ordinance, they would be, I think, the first major city to ever do it,” Keisling said. “We are not asking them to hold off on doing this; we’re asking them to not do it.”
UPDATE: Gregg Watkins, a spokesperson for Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, confirmed the issue “has been pulled from the agenda” of Monday night’s session,” but added that action doesn’t preclude the council from taking up the compromise in a future session. The development was first reported by The New Civil Rights Movement.