September 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Charlotte may cave on LGBT ordinance under HB2 pressure
Charlotte Catholic High School, gay news, Washington Blade

Charlotte, N.C., may cave on its non-discrimination ordinance as a result of the anti-LGBT law. (Photo public domain)

Amid new economic pressure on North Carolina as result of cancellation of collegiate games in the state, the legislature has quietly signaled it would be willing to repeal the anti-LGBT law that has led to the turmoil — but under a compromise in which Charlotte first repeals its pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinance.

As reported by the News & Observer, the Charlotte City Council could vote to repeal its non-discrimination ordinance during a meeting on Monday beginning at 5 pm, which in turn could lead to special session of the legislature as soon as this week in which lawmakers repeal HB2.

Christoper Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said the Charlotte City Council may vote to rescind the ordinance “purportedly in exchange for the full repeal of House Bill 2,” but predicted the effort won’t succeed.

“Obviously, the economic harm that North Carolina has suffered has absolutely nothing to do with the Charlotte ordinance,” Sgro said. “That ordinance is, in fact, the best practice employed in hundreds of cities across the country, including other Southern cities, and actually is a competitive advantage to getting NCAA or ACC tournament games.”

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Sgro said, are responsible for pushing for the change “to help Pat McCrory push a last-ditch effort to save himself politically.”

Lynn Minges, CEO of the North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, said in a statement the continued loss of business to the state as a result of HB2 calls for action.

“NCRLA has received assurances this week from legislative leadership, that if the Charlotte City Council repeals Ordinance No. 7056 at their meeting on Monday, the General Assembly is prepared to meet in special session as early as next week to repeal House Bill 2,” Minges said. “Furthermore, Gov. Pat McCrory has assured NCRLA that he is willing to call legislators into a special session next week for this purpose if both the city and legislators have the votes for repeal.”

After Charlotte approved its non-discrimination in February, lawmakers in the state legislature called a special session to override the measure, stoking fears about the prohibition on discrimination against transgender people and saying it would enable men to enter women’s restrooms.

Over the course of single day, the legislature passed and Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law HB2, which blocked the Charlotte ordinance from taking effect and barred transgender people from using the public restroom in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.

The newly enacted law prompted outcry from both LGBT advocates and the business community. Companies cancelled plans for business expansion in North Carolina and performers nixed events scheduled there. Just last week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the Atlantic Coast Conference announced they would relocate championship games previously planned for the state as result of the anti-LGBT law.

Susanna Birdsong, policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement North Carolina is suffering as a result of “a law that encourages discrimination against LGBT people and particularly targets and harms transgender people.”

“North Carolina’s leaders need to stop blaming others, take responsibility for the disaster that is HB2 and repeal the entire discriminatory law without delay,” Birdsong said. “We urge the Charlotte City Council to stand firm on its commitment to protecting the LGBT community from discrimination by leaving its ordinance intact.”

It’s not the first time in which Charlotte was poised to act on a deal with the state legislature by undoing its non-discrimination ordinance in exchange for repeal of HB2. In May, Charlotte was prepared to act, but ultimately determined to keep the non-discrimination ordinance in place.

Sgro said Charlotte is now revisiting the idea as a result of an increased pressure on Republicans after the NCAA and the ACC cancelled championship games in North Carolina.

“They’re merely trying to — rather than finally step up and take responsibility — pull some additional antics to try to get someone other than themselves to take the blame, but I don’t think it’s going to work,” Sgro said. “And ultimately, they’re still going to have to repeal House Bill 2 because of the damage it’s doing to our economy.”

Adding fuel to fire, Sgro said, are two Republicans who voted for HB2 — State Rep. Gary Pendleton and State Rep. Tamara Barringer — now calling for repeal of the law.

Simone Bell, southern regional director for Lambda Legal, called on Charlotte to stand firm and keep its non-discrimination ordinance in place.

“Non-discrimination policies like Charlotte’s are good and necessary measures that protect the LGBT community,” Bell said. “Repealing Charlotte’s ordinance would be a step backward for equality, inclusion and fairness. Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly need to stop pointing fingers, do the right thing and repeal all of HB2 harmful provisions.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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