The local fight against House Bill 2 rages on.
As Gov. Pat McCrory and the U.S. Justice Department continue to square off over the controversial measure, a grassroots group now known as Wilmington Against HB2 is staging a second rally tomorrow in the Mayfaire area.
Ahead of that peaceful gathering at 5 p.m., nearby tekMountain – already outspoken about HB2 – will host a one-hour town hall-style meeting at 4 p.m. at its headquarters, 1844 Sir Tyler Drive, to discuss the next steps along the path to a repeal.
It’s a meeting tekMountain officials promised back in mid-April, when they officially went on record as opposing HB2 and posted an online petition to the company’s website asking others to join them.
And it’s another sure sign to Ed Helms, a driving force behind Wilmington Against HB2, that many in the Port City are getting behind the cause.
“Wilmington has made me smile more than a few times in the last month,” Helms said. “We’re very, very happy for the support.”
He pointed to the overwhelmingly positive response his group received during Azalea Festival, where he and other organizers had an informational booth. During the two-day street fair, Helms said Wilmington Against HB2 collected well over 2,000 signatures on its petition.
“Facebook and social media is great but that eye-to-eye contact was really quite something. We did a lot of what I consider educating people,” he said.
Helms also cites an upcoming and updated production of Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure” aimed at bringing the play’s message of the hypocrisy of strict religious belief into modern times, with an unspecified North Carolina town as the backdrop.
And he applauds Wilmington City Council, which approved a resolution last month urging state lawmakers to repeal HB2. The surprise move followed a massive turnout of opponents to the law.
TekMountain, too, acknowledges city leaders’ efforts, as well as the work of Rep. Susi Hamilton and three of her Democrat colleagues to draft a bill to repeal HB2 in the current session of the NC General Assembly.
But in a release, the company notes the recent pullout by the American Institute of Architects, which was set to host a national conference in Wilmington in the fall, as well as major news this week of the legal battle in which McCrory, the federal government and the state are now embroiled.
According to news reports across the state and country, the U.S. Justice Department, believing HB2 to constitute discrimination, gave McCrory a deadline of May 9 to opt not to enforce the law. Instead, he filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department and, in turn, the feds fired back with a suit seeking a court order to render the law unenforceable.
Considering a likely long and hard road ahead, tekMountain leaders say the town hall meeting Friday will focus on using technology as both a platform to voice HB2 opposition and as a way to combat the wave of boycotts by entertainers and businesses like Bruce Springsteen and Paypal. And, the company wants to look at ways to support the movement statewide to have the law repealed.
That road ahead is why Helms says his group will remain visible around town in the months ahead. Wilmington Against HB2 is planning to hold at least one rally a month until November, when Helms said he hopes new leadership will mark the swift death of the law.
“As far as our actions in the street, we want to show people that we are not going to live in the closet,” he said.
Helms said Wilmington Against HB2 is also working to ensure people see the measure as more than just the “bathroom bill.” While the national spotlight has been on the law’s restrictions on transgender people’s bathroom rights, HB2 also limits local municipalities’ authority to raise minimum wage and employees’ ability to file workplace discrimination claims at the state level.
Hilary Snow is a reporter at Port City Daily. Reach her at email@example.com.