Gov. McCrory calls for special session for Wednesday to discuss repealing HB2

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Gov. Pat McCrory calling special session over HB2
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Gov. Pat McCrory calling special session over HB2

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- Gov. Pat McCrory announced in a video message that he has called for a special legislative session on Wednesday to discuss repealing North Carolina's controversial HB2 law, also known as the "bathroom bill."

The governor's announcement came hours after the Charlotte City Council voted Monday to repeal a non-discrimination ordinance, part of which allowed transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the gender they identify with. The city ordinance was passed amid substantial opposition in early 2016 and led to the General Assembly convening a special session to pass HB2.

Watch Gov. McCrory's announcement

Within minutes of the repeal, Governor-elect Roy Cooper said the controversial state law would be repealed also in the General Assembly during a special session.

The state law requires people to use the restroom according to their biological sex listed on their birth certificate in government buildings, schools, and universities. The law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from anti-discrimination protections and blocks municipalities from adopting their own anti-discrimination and living wage rules.

"HB2 doesn't just hurt the state, it hurts our LGBT community, it hurts our small businesses, it hurts people looking for jobs. It hurts our reputation going forward," said Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts.

Read more about HB2

Cooper put out a statement saying HB2 would be repealed in full by the General Assembly special session Tuesday:

"I hope they (Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore) will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full.

"Full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state."

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Since the state law was passed, multiple corporations have cancelled plans to bring jobs to the state, entertainers have cancelled North Carolina appearances, and the NBA pulled an all-star game from Charlotte. The NCAA and ACC have also moved college sports events out of the state. During the campaign for governor, Cooper charged the issue has cost the state millions of dollars.

The NCAA released a statement on Monday.

"The NCAA remains committed to the fair treatment of all individuals, and it is our expectation that everyone will be welcome at our championships. We are encouraged by the current discussions in North Carolina and remain committed to hosting future NCAA championships to ensure they promote an inclusive atmosphere for college athletes, coaches, administrators and fans. The relocated championships for 2016-17 will remain in those new cities."

Responding to Cooper, Governor Pat McCrory blamed Charlotte leaders for creating the problem in the first place. McCrory and lawmakers have defended HB2 as providing privacy and safety by keeping men out of women's restrooms. Opponents of the law call it discriminatory.

In a statement, McCrory's Press Secretary Graham Wilson said:

"Now that the Charlotte ordinance has been repealed, the expectation of privacy in our showers, bathrooms and locker rooms is restored and protected under previous state law. Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by Jennifer Roberts, Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists. This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor's race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state."

Opponents of HB2 challenged McCrory's stance.

"What Charlotte did was a best practice, both for LGBT Charlotteans and for the business community. It mirrors ordinances that we see in hundreds of other cities in places like Jackson, Mississippi and Orlando, Florida. What has been the problem is the uniquely terrible House Bill Two. The legislature made that mistake and the legislature alone must act," offered Chris Sgro with Equality North Carolina.

Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) issued a joint statement Monday:

"Today Roy Cooper and Jennifer Roberts proved what we said was the case all along: their efforts to force men into women's bathrooms and shower facilities was a political stunt to drive out-of-state money into the governor's race. For months, we've said if Charlotte would repeal its bathroom ordinance that created the problem, we would take up the repeal of HB2. But Roy Cooper is not telling the truth about the legislature committing to call itself into session - we've always said that was Gov. McCrory's decision, and if he calls us back, we will be prepared to act. For Cooper to say otherwise is a dishonest and disingenuous attempt to take credit."

Sgro challenged that version of events, saying a full and unequivocal repeal of HB2 has not been offered before.

"That is never a conversation that anyone has committed to publicly - not Pat McCrory, not Phil Berger, and not Tim Moore," he claimed.

The Charlotte City Council's move is contingent on North Carolina legislators fully repealing HB2 by December 31.

Coming just days after Republicans called a special session to strip Cooper of some of his powers before he can take office, a repeal would be a remarkable sign of cooperation.

In a statement after its vote, the Charlotte City Council said it remains committed to protecting all people's rights but that it was willing to take action with the state to "restore our collective reputation."

"The Charlotte City Council recognizes the ongoing negative economic impact resulting from the passage of the City's Non-Discrimination Ordinance and the State's House Bill 2," the statement said.

NCGOP Chairman Robin Hayes lashed Democrats for "shameless political games."

"We said from day one the actions of Mayor Roberts to pass a divisive and unneeded Charlotte ordinance, was politics at its worst, designed to help Roy Cooper," Hayes said in a statement. "This is confirmed now that she (has) Roy Cooper's permission to strike a repeal/repeal deal that (Cooper) fought numerous times this year. Cooper was against a deal before he was for it, and Democrats were against special sessions before they were for them."

The state was sued by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents over HB2, while McCrory, Berger and Moore went to court to defend it. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate case from Virginia on transgender restroom access.

After Monday's announcement, other groups have weighed in including The North Carolina Association of Educators,

"NCAE supports Governor-elect Cooper's call for an immediate and full repeal of House Bill 2 during a special session. This short-sighted discriminatory law set North Carolina back decades and had a negative impact on our state's reputation. More importantly it had a devastating impact on students who face a greater chance of violence and bullying. As educators we must make sure our schools are welcoming and safe for everyone. Our state's leaders must ensure that as well. Today we stand with Governor-elect Cooper for a swift and full repeal to protect our students and to start repairing our state's damaged reputation," offered NCAE President Mark Jewell.

The North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association weighed in, as well. The NCRLA tried in September to bring all sides together for a resolution in the political standoff.

"NCRLA has been working actively for months with policy makers on all sides of this complex issue to seek resolution," said Lynn Minges, NCRLA President & CEO. "The North Carolina hospitality community is an open and welcoming industry, but our businesses and employees have been suffering, and it's time to put this issue behind us. We commend the Charlotte City Council, Governor McCrory, Governor-elect Cooper, House and Senate leadership, and members of the North Carolina legislature for their willingness to come together to resolve this complex issue."

As Republicans have done from the beginning of this saga, they again pointed the finger at Charlotte city leaders.

"It's not like the legislature wanted this fight," said NCGOP Executive Director Dallas Woodhouse. "Charlotte instituted this fight, they were warned away from it. They made a choice, and they made a very expensive political decision for the people of North Carolina."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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