Bipartisan bill to repeal HB2 picks up supporters

RALEIGH, North Carolina (WTVD) -- More North Carolina House members have signed on to a bipartisan bill that sponsors call a compromise to eliminate a law curtailing LGBT rights and limiting which public restrooms transgender people can use.

By late Thursday, 19 lawmakers - five Democrats and 14 Republicans - had co-sponsored the measure to repeal what's known as House Bill 2.


However, it's not a simple repeal. The bill would restore restrictions on local governments that seek to extend anti-discrimination protections. The state also would still have power over policies involving multi-stall bathrooms. There's no word yet about if and when the bill will get a hearing.

There's no word yet about if and when the bill -- House Bill 186 -- will get heard.

Gay-rights groups and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper criticized the proposal after it was filed Wednesday. They have pushed for a simple repeal. The socially conservative North Carolina Values Coalition also panned the measure Thursday but wants HB2 to stay in place. Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald criticized bill language that would allow cities to pass ordinances expanding anti-discrimination ordinances beyond what's in state policy.

HB2 is "the only way to ensure that privacy, dignity, and common sense rule in North Carolina," Fitzgerald said in a release.


Any measure would have to pass both the House and Senate with strong majorities in order to withstand a potential Cooper veto. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, told reporters Thursday he generally doesn't comment on House bills until they reach his chamber, but "I'm actually pleased that there are folks trying to find compromises."

On Thursday, the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce endorsed the plan.

"The North Carolina Chamber and the statewide business community have been clear about our goals on this issue; we are encouraged and supportive of House Bill 186 as a bipartisan effort to move toward a resolution," said Lew Ebert, president and CEO of the North Carolina Chamber. "We encourage continued dialogue and collaboration among elected leaders to pass a solution."

And Realtors association CEO Andrea Bushnell said "this compromise is reasonable and protects all citizens of North Carolina."

The North Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association, which said it represents the interests of more than 18,000 food-service establishments and 1,700 lodging properties across the state, also welcomed the new effort.

"We commend the sponsors of HB186 for coming forth with a bipartisan approach to solving a complex issue," said Lynn Minges, president and CEO of the NCRLA. "We believe this bill is a good start toward finding common ground, and we are encouraged that there will be continued collaboration from all sides involved."

In opposing the measure, state ACLU policy director Sarah Gillooly in part cited a provision that could require a referendum on a city's proposed expansion for anti-discrimination protections, such as for sexual orientation and gender identity, if enough registered voters request one.

The bill "still sanctions discrimination against transgender people and makes it harder for local governments to protect LGBT people under the law," Gillooly said.

HB2 requires transgender people to use multi-stall restrooms in public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates and blocks expansion of LGBT rights in local ordinances and state law. It drew national protests.

Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here

Saturday, ACC Commissioner John Swofford welcomed HB186:

"It's encouraging that a bipartisan effort has been initiated in the North Carolina General Assembly regarding HB2. If legislation is passed that resets the law as it was prior to HB2, it will present the opportunity to reopen the discussion with the ACC Council of Presidents regarding neutral site conference championships being in the state of North Carolina. The ACC is pleased the legislature is dedicated to resolving this important issue."

GOP lawmakers approved HB2 in response to Charlotte city leaders approving a controversial February 2016 ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. The state law prompted some businesses and sporting events to spurn North Carolina. The NBA moved its All-Star game out of Charlotte, and the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference withdrew championship events this academic year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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