On Thursday, legislators in North Carolina voted to repeal HB2 otherwise known as the infamous “bathroom bill” despite outrage from trans-rights activists who insisted the measure would replace rather than repeal the existing legislation. It passed the North Carolina House of Representatives by a vote of 70-48.
The new bill, while repealing the language of HB2, does little to overhaul the harmful impact of the law. The North Carolina General Assembly will still have authority to pass laws over access to multi-stall restrooms and bar local governments from putting forward nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020.
Many LGBTQ rights advocates are unhappy with Thursday’s compromise, calling it a “sellout” by lawmakers who are only concerned about the economic damages caused by HB2. Progressives are calling for a total repeal of HB2 and are concerned that as long as the law still exists, so will LGBTQ discrimination. The American Civil Liberties Union has been at the forefront of criticism about the HB2 compromise stating that it is in fact, a “fake repeal.”
First passed into law in March of 2016, House Bill 2 effectively eliminates LGBTQ+ protections by forbidding localities from passing any anti-discrimination laws that extend protections to classes of people not covered by the state’s laws, which omit any references to sexual orientation or gender identity. The sweeping legislation is considered to be highly discriminatory as it prevented transgender people from using the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity, and made discrimination against LGBTQ people in the public domain fully legal.
From the moment it passed, HB2 was embroiled in legal battles. At one point, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch claimed that the law was in direct violation of Title IX and the Civil Rights Act, and threatened to pull federal funding to the state. In September, then Governor Pat McCrory withdrew the state’s lawsuit asking a federal court to protect the law, citing “substantial costs” of money and time impacting the state.
Many cite the economic impact on North Carolina, not the human rights violation, as one of the top drivers behind rolling back the legislation. Associated Press estimated that the state of North Carolina will lose over $3 million in business over 12 years. Corporations such as PayPal have halted expansion efforts into North Carolina due to the discriminatory nature of HB2 and major sports conferences such as National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Basketball Association have chosen to remove North Carolina from consideration of host states for major events.
Lawsuits around HB2 are part of many across the country in recent years concerning the ability of transgender individuals to use restrooms that match their gender identity. In 2016, Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student in the state of Virginia was banned from using the men’s restroom at his school. He, along with the ACLU, are suing the Gloucester County School Board over violations of Title IX . Earlier this month, the Supreme Court stated that it would no longer hear Gavin Grimm’s case as a result of President Trump’s roll back on Title IX protections for transgender students. The case has been sent back down to the lower court for review.
Media Resources: FMF 3/6/17; FMF 10/31/16; FMF 4/8/16; FMF 3/28/16; FMF 9/21/16; FMF 9/13/16; WRAL 3/30/17; NBC 3/30/17; Huffington Post 3/30/17; Associated Press 3/27/17