Tuesday, February 20, 2024

NC House Democrats propose immediate repeal of HB2

Rep. Susi Hamilton is one of four House Democrats behind a bill to completely strike HB2 from the books. File photo.
Rep. Susi Hamilton is one of four House Democrats behind a bill to completely strike HB2 from the books. File photo.

A group of North Carolina lawmakers is seeking a swift end to the controversial so-called bathroom law.

Rep. Susi Hamilton, a Democrat representing New Hanover and Brunswick counties, is among the primary sponsors of proposed legislation to repeal House Bill 2 filed and stamped Monday morning at the start of the General Assembly’s latest session.

HB2 was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on March 23, the same night it was cleared by the Senate 32-0 during a special session during which every Democrat left the General Assembly floor during the vote. It had previously gotten through the House with unanimous Republican support, backed by favorable votes from 11 Democrats.

Hamilton, who has been an outspoken critic of HB2 since the onset, drafted the repeal bill with fellow House Democrats Darren Jackson and Grier Wilson, both of Wake County, and Graig Meyer, who represents Durham and Orange counties

In few words, the bill calls for a complete and immediate dismantling of HB2, retroactive to its ratification. Further, it seeks to allocate approximately $545,000 to the state’s Human Relations Commission, a division of the Department of Administration that provides equal opportunity services and programs for all citizens.

Penned in response to non-discrimination actions adopted by Charlotte leaders, HB2 requires transgender people use bathrooms that align with the gender on their birth certificate, rather than the one with which they currently identify.

While supporters like District 9 Sen. Michael Lee (R) say the law aims to address issues of safety and practicality surrounding the use of public bathrooms and locker rooms, opponents see the restriction as a sign of intolerance of the LGBT community. They also take issue with HB2’s other limitations–local municipalities’ authority to raise minimum wage and employees’ ability to file workplace discrimination claims at the state level.

Since HB2 took effect April 1, it has drawn the ire of national industries and entertainers alike, with companies like PayPal and rock stars like Bruce Springsteen boycotting any business dealings with North Carolina. Local entrepreneurs have joined in, as well, including those behind tech start-up incubator tekMountain, which posted an online petition to encourage other Wilmington residents to voice their opposition.

Hamilton was not available for comment, responding to Port City Daily via text message Monday evening to note the House session was just getting underway. She said in an earlier interview that unless HB2 is taken off the books, the state will see a significant dip not only in new industry eyeing the area but in two of its mainstay drivers: film and tourism.

Lee – who also was unavailable Monday – has stated that he is “hopeful” the law will not negatively affect the film industry, for which he has spent the last year fighting to revive after his Republican peers put an end to the state’s tax incentive program.

When asked in an email from Port City Daily about his current stance on HB2 and reaction to Hamilton’s proposal, Lee promptly replied his answers would be forthcoming.

“While I generally do not review House bills until they crossover to the Senate, I will try to review the bill you referenced and respond later this week,” Lee wrote.

As the second legislative session kicked off Monday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), American Civil Liberties Union and Equality NC delivered a petition to repeal HB2 that contained 190,000 signatures, according to a spokesperson with the HRC.

Hilary Snow is a reporter for Port City Daily. Reach her at hilary.s@portcitydaily.com.

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