Democrat Ford accuses Cooper of 'moving the goal post' on HB2 repeal

Sen. Joel Ford
Sen. Joel Ford

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Democrat State Senator Joel Ford (Mecklenburg) accused Democrat Governor Roy Cooper of "moving the goal post" on a deal to repeal House Bill 2.

The accusation comes after WBTV broke the news of a conversation between Ford and Cooper on Wednesday morning in which Cooper reportedly voiced his support for a new bill authored by Ford that would repeal HB2 and enact a moratorium on local non-discrimination ordinances for 30 days after the end of the 2017 legislative session.

The bill, SB332, was filed Tuesday and largely mirrors a repeal bill put forth by Republicans in December. That bill was defeated in the Senate amid pressure from Cooper on Senate Democrats to oppose the measure, specifically because it included language requiring a moratorium.

Multiple sources told WBTV that Cooper said he would support the bill, a characterization initially not disputed by Cooper's office when reached for comment on Wednesday morning.

The Governor's Office clarified Cooper's position on the bill, though, early Wednesday afternoon.

"Governor Cooper spoke with Senator Ford and encouraged him to keep working on a bill that would bring back jobs and sporting events and begin to repair our reputation," Cooper's Press Secretary Ford Porter said in an email. "The Governor remains concerned that this cannot be accomplished without a fixed end-date on a moratorium and urges legislators to continue working on a compromise that will get the job done."

Following the clarification from Cooper's office, Ford issued a statement about his call with Cooper that accused the Governor of changing his position on the bill amid pressure from special interest groups aligned with the pro-LGBT movement.

"I spoke with the Governor this morning and he assured me this was legislation he could support.  Then apparently, the Governor, after speaking with Equality NC, marginalized his original position – thus moving the goal post, signaling ambivalence on getting HB-2 repealed," Ford said.

"Here's the political reality, there will be no repeal of HB-2 without brokering a workable compromise with the super-majority Republican caucus' in the State House and State Senate.  The Republicans have no intention of a clear-cut repeal of HB-2," Ford continued. "The Progressive community should understand there will have to be compromise if there is going to be repeal. If there can be no compromise, there will be no repeal."

EqualityNC responded via Twitter after Ford's statement was released saying it denied Ford's accusations.

Ford's bill is sponsored by a group of Democrats and one Republican, Tamara Barringer (Wake).

Barringer said she supports Ford's proposal because it is a reasonable solution to address HB2.

"It's a good, bi-partisan bill and we need to find a solution to repeal HB2," Barringer said. "I appreciate Senator Ford's leadership on this."

The new bill comes weeks after a bi-partisan bill filed in the House of Representatives stalled.

That bill, HB186, would repeal HB2 and also includes a provision subjecting any new local non-discrimination ordinance to a referendum.

The referendum provision has become a sticking point for some Democrats, including Cooper, who has said he supports other provisions of the bill but opposes the referendum provision.

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