December 21, 2016 at 2:34 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
HB2 repeal in question as N.C. lawmakers meet for special session

North Carolina, State Capitol, Raleigh, Gay News, Washington Blade

North Carolina State Capitol held a special session to undo HB2. (photo by Jim Bowen via Wikimedia Commons. )

Repeal of North Carolina’s House Bill 2 was in question Wednesday after lawmakers met for a special session, but took no action as of late afternoon on the law that has generated outcry from LGBT advocates and the business community.

After being called into session earlier this week by Gov. Pat McCrory, lawmakers in the General Assembly gaveled in for a special session, then adjourned for a short recess and closed-door caucus. They were scheduled to return to open session in late morning, but that didn’t happen. As of early Wednesday afternoon, the House was set to reconvene to 2:45, although lawmakers could continue to push back that time.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, suggested as lawmakers were preparing to return to open session the votes to repeal HB2 were in question.

Ian Palmquist, senior director of programs for the Equality Federation, was on the ground at the North Carolina state legislature on Wednesday and said situation remains a “waiting game.”

“The Republican caucus has been meeting all morning,” Palmquist said. “There are a lot of rumors out there. We’re not completely sure what’s true, but we know that they’re trying to secure the votes to pass repeal of House Bill 2, and we don’t know if they’re going to try to attach any limitations on that, which would be unacceptable to the advocates here.”

Palmquist said one proposed idea for a limitation would be coupling repeal of HB2 with a limited-time moratorium on local governments from enacting non-discrimination protections. The proposed time length for such a moratorium six months, but that isn’t settled, Palmquist said.

That moratorium would be aimed at Charlotte, which on Monday rescinded its LGBT non-discrimination ordinance as part of a deal with the state legislature to repeal HB2.

Democrats in Senate filed a bill on Wednesday that would have led to full repeal of HB2, but with Republican lawmakers in charge it seems unlikely that would be the version of the bill that would be voted upon.

Approved by state legislature and signed by McCrory in March after one day of consideration, HB 2 bars cities from enacting pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, reversing one recently enacted in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender from using the public restroom in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.

The legislature met to repeal HB2 as part of deal with Charlotte City Council, which earlier this week agreed to repeal the ordinance it enacted in February barring anti-LGBT discrimination within the municipalities. The provision prohibiting anti-LGBT bias in public accommodation, including denying transgender people access to restrooms consistent with the gender identity, was cited in March as the reason for enacting HB2.

McCrory defended HB2 throughout his tenure as governor and re-election bid, but promised to call for a special session of the legislature to repeal the law if Charlotte rescinded its ordinance. When the city council agreed to take that action Monday — provided the legislature in turn repeal HB2 by Dec. 31 — McCrory made good on his pledged and called for a special session of the legislature.

In the open session prior to the caucus, many balked Republican lawmakers balked openly over the idea of the special session to repeal HB2, including Rep. Jeff Collins (R-Nash) who called the session “unconstitutional” as House lawmakers considered a rules resolution.

“There is no extraordinary circumstance being addressed by the proclamation of the governor,” Collins said. “There’s absolutely nothing we couldn’t do four weeks from now when a long session convenes. The only extraordinary thing that’s happened is we have the extraordinary hubris of a city council who has demanded the General Assembly by a certain date.”

The legislature holds a special session on HB2 on the same day Skye Thomson, a 15-year-old transgender teen in Greensboro, N.C., posted an open letter on Medium, highlighting the harms the law has caused in school.

“Since the day the bill was put into law, my friends and I have experienced things nobody should have to go through at any age,” Thomson writes. “I was bullied so badly in public school that I had to withdraw completely and start homeschooling. Every day my peers would push me around the halls. They repeatedly called out slurs as I walked past and I’ve had people threaten to beat me up or even kill me, just for being myself.”

It remains to be seen whether McCrory will sign a repeal measure as enacted by the state legislature. The Washington Blade has placed a request in with his office seeking comment on his planned action.

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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