RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has signed a bill into law that repeals North Carolina's House Bill 2, which has been the law for more than a year.
"Today, we repealed HB2. It wasn't a perfect deal or my preferred solution, but an important first step for our state," Cooper said in a press conference after signing the bill. The bill was passed in the North Carolina House and Senate Thursday before being sent to Cooper's desk.
Thursday's vote by North Carolina lawmakers comes following an agreement reached Wednesday night by Governor Roy Cooper and Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly.
House Democrats stand around 22-23 in favor of the HB2 repeal. Members said Cooper put a hard sell for those who were on the fence.
"This bill is a significant compromise on both sides," Senate Republican Leader Berger said of the repeal bill.
The deal was being discussed by both Republicans and Democrat House members in their respective caucuses Wednesday night. Legislative leaders worked late into the night and, later, huddled with top aides from Cooper's office before announcing a deal had been reached around 10:30 p.m.
The deal reached between Cooper and Moore would repeal HB2, re-set bathroom access to pre-HB2 standards and also include a moratorium preventing local governments from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances through at least December 1, 2020, the NC General Assembly says.
"A lot of us would not like to put a moratorium," Democratic Sen. Dan Blue said Thursday on laws protecting citizens.
In a statement Wednesday, Cooper said, "I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow. It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation."
House Speaker Tim Moore spoke publicly just after 2 p.m. in the NCGA press conference room following the House's vote.
"We dealt with the local non-discrimination issue," Moore said. "Cities are out of that business for the next four years."
Moore also said that now "there is absolutely no justification for any league or any individual to treat us [NC] different" than other states.
Others in Raleigh Thursday had mixed reactions to the repeal.
"This is not what I voted for Governor Cooper to do. I'm not entirely surprised by the outcome, I'm disappointed by it," said Angela Bridgman, a transgender woman from Wake County.
Steve Ostrega from Pineville supported the new compromise bill.
"Yeah, I would like to be able to go into a public bathroom - if my little girl is going to the restroom by herself - that I can trust that there's not another man in there," Ostrega said. "Same if I take my boys in they have respect enough that it's a male bathroom."
Charlotte's leaders release statements
Charlotte's mayor, Jennifer Roberts, posted a statement online Thursday afternoon about the passing of the bill.
"I am deeply disappointed that the Republican leaders in the General Assembly continue to see LGBT people as unequal and refuse to let cities like Charlotte govern themselves," she wrote. "They passed HB2 and continued to prevent a clean repeal of the bill - even after the City of Charlotte met all of their demands."
"Personally, I would like nothing more than a repeal of HB2, but this is not a repeal nor is this a reset," she continued. "This is a rejection of Charlotte's and North Carolina's progressive, inclusive values. We are not HB2, and we are not today's false repeal."
Officials with the city of Charlotte also released a statement about the repeal after Governor Cooper announced he signed it into law.
"We are pleased that the North Carolina legislature has taken this important step by repealing House Bill 2. This legislation has impacted economic development, tourism, businesses and more over the last year, and we look forward to moving beyond this matter," the city statement read.
"By repealing HB2, this bill reinstates Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance as it read prior to February 22, 2016. That means that a place of public accommodation (i.e., "a business, accommodation, refreshment, entertainment, recreation, or transportation facility … whose goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages or accommodations are extended, offered, sold or otherwise made available to the public") may not discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex," the statement continued. "Complaints of discrimination may now again be filed with the City's Community Relations Committee which will investigate and bring an enforcement action if warranted. The City of Charlotte remains committed to being a welcoming and inclusive city."?
Civil rights organizations call deal 'an insult'
The head of the North Carolina NAACP called the HB2 repeal "an insult to civil rights."
According to a statement released by Reverend William Barber II, "setting a moratorium on local governments ability to pass anti-discrimination ordinances and to regulate private employment practices is another sweeping act of hubris by the legislature and takes power from officials elected by the people to serve the rights of the people."
He called the bill "anti-worker, anti-access to the courts, and anti-LGBTQ."
"We will continue to fight against retaliatory voter suppression, anti-worker legislation, and any backroom efforts to enshrine discrimination in our laws," Barber continued. "Above all, any moratorium on civil rights is not a compromise, it is a contradiction with the principle of equal protection under the law and our moral values."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina called on lawmakers to reject the deal.
"One year after HB2 was introduced and signed into law in just 12 hours, it is shameful that legislative leaders and North Carolina's governor are once again rushing through a discriminatory anti-LGBT measure without proper vetting or an opportunity for public input," said Sarah Gillooly, Policy Director for the ACLU of North Carolina. "The way to undo HB2's profound damage to North Carolina and its people has always been a full, clean repeal, but this proposal would keep anti-LGBT provisions of the law in place and continue to single out and target transgender people."
The ACLU and Lambda Legal are currently challenging HB2 in federal court.
On May 10, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will consider a request to block the anti-transgender provisions of the law barring transgender individuals from using restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender from being enforced.
The Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, Chris Sgro, said the bill doesn't "alleviate the discrimination."
"I'm disappointed and frustrated to hear that Governor Cooper who was elected explicitly to get HB2 off the books, instead is trying to convince democrats to side with Phil Berger and Time Moore to keep HB2 on the books and double down on discrimination," Sgro said.
"It continues to keep North Carolina the only state in the country obsessed with regulating where transgender people use the restroom and it says that municipalities can't protect their LGBT citizens from discrimination and violence for four years," Sgro continued. "So it doesn't repeal anything, it just kicks the can down the road for somebody else to deal with so that they can bring back basketball, I'm not sure that it will even do that."
Pat McCrory weighs in on deal
Former North Carolina governor, and Charlotte mayor, Pat McCrory weighed in on the bill to repeal HB2 Thursday morning, as well.
In a Facebook statement, McCrory urged lawmakers and Cooper to "finally stick with an agreement that is a common-sense reset that respects privacy and allows the Supreme Court to resolve this issue for our nation once and for all."
"How our country legally defines gender ultimately will not be decided by any mayor, governor, state legislature, or university chancellor on the board of the NCAA," he continued.
"Sadly, this all started when the City of Charlotte passed a mandate that threatened private sector businesses with a fine or a 30-day jail sentence for not complying with a new gender requirement for access to their public restrooms and locker rooms," McCrory added. "As a result, I signed a state bill protecting privacy and forbidding such local government overreach to be enacted. As promised, I later signed legislation to revise parts of the state bill to reinstate the right to sue for discrimination in state courts and signed an Executive Order to forbid discrimination in hiring and firing of state employees."
McCrory says special interest groups have targeted North Carolina over the past year, raising and spending millions of dollars "smearing our state and encouraging misguided boycotts."
"I support this common-sense reset for our state that continues to protect our privacy and allows our constitutional process to work through the Courts," McCrory added.
The agreement did not include a referendum requirement on local non-discrimination ordinances nor any language regarding religious freedom, the sources said.
Berger and Moore said Wednesday, "Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy."
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce issued a statement Thursday morning supporting the bill to repeal.
"The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce would like to thank Governor Roy Cooper, Senator Phil Berger and Speaker Tim Moore for their leadership in providing a bipartisan solution for North Carolina to move forward," the statement reads. "We endorse HB142 and encourage all members of the Mecklenburg Legislative Delegation and the entire General Assembly to support it."
NCAA deadline looming
News of the new repeal deal comes just hours before a deadline imposed by the NCAA that required state leaders to repeal HB2 or lose the opportunity to host any college championships for the next five years.
The NCAA will announce basketball championship sites on Thursday.
Sgro says he doesn't think the new deal does enough to appease the organization.
"From everything that the NCAA has indicated about why they left the state of North Carolina and where they want to bring tournament games, places that offer protections for LGBT citizens," Sgro said. "I don't think that this gets the job done."
The new deal also comes less than 24 hours after Moore and Senate Republican leader Phil Berger hastily called a press conference to announce their caucuses were prepared to agree to a deal in principle they claimed was first put forth by Cooper until, they said, the Governor retracted his offer.
Despite Tuesday's finger pointing, both Cooper and Moore said they were still hopeful a deal could get done.
A timeline for considering any legislation as a result of the deal reached between Cooper and Republicans late Wednesday afternoon was unclear as of early evening.