We Need Republican Leaders To Come Back To The Negotiating Table

There is urgency in the air in Raleigh. If we don’t repeal HB2 soon, North Carolina will be shut out of hosting NCAA championships for the next several years.

I did not create this crisis. Republicans did, passing HB2 in just 12 hours. In December, Speaker Moore, Senator Berger and I made an agreement: I would persuade the Charlotte City Council to repeal their ordinance, and they would get the House and Senate to repeal HB2. I kept my promise; they did not.

After recently proposing my own solution to repeal HB2, Rep. Chuck McGrady has introduced a different proposal. People are urging me and the legislature to work this out. I think we can, but we have to make a commonsense adjustment first.

While there are several parts of this proposal that I don’t favor, one particular portion will likely have the effect of prolonging the stain on our great state’s reputation. Rep. McGrady’s proposal says that when cities pass their own non-discrimination ordinances, opponents can collect small number of signatures on petitions to put these LGBT protections up for a vote in a referendum election.

I have two concerns with this. First, it subjects the rights of the minority to a vote of the majority. It would be like putting the Civil Rights Act to a popular vote in cities in the South during the 1960s. Except today, it would come with the perils of modern campaigns. Which is my second concern. Imagine the endless campaigning — months of one side demonizing the other about whether LGBT citizens have rights. Toxic 30-second TV ads. Nasty mail filling up your mailbox. And North Carolina is still in the national news for all the wrong reasons.

Our reputation will continue to suffer. And our efforts to bring back jobs and sporting events will be impaired.

We can find another way to address Republican concerns about local governments. For example, the state could require cities that want to add LGBT protections to approve them by majority-plus-one votes. I’ve suggested this to Republican leaders and Speaker Moore, even though I don’t like it, but they are unwilling to negotiate on anything without these referendums. But just as I was in December, I’m ready to compromise to erase this damaging law. We just need Republicans to come to the table, too.

Unfortunately, rather than truly working together, Republican leaders introduced this “bipartisan compromise” by promising Democrats that the referendum provision could be removed and then going back on that promise.

Some groups have rallied around this “bipartisan compromise.” Some of them have spent a year on the sidelines, but now they have issued statements at the 11th hour demanding a last-minute agreement. Unfortunately, they too have been misled. This is not a Republican compromise with Democrats; it’s a Republican compromise with Republicans. Repealing HB2 will require bipartisanship, but Rep. McGrady’s proposal is not a true bipartisan compromise. I thank Rep. McGrady for continuing to meet and talk with my staff and me. But he should know that his proposal will not have enough votes to pass without changes.

Let’s be clear. Today Republican super-majorities control the legislature. They could repeal HB2 without a single Democratic vote. I have proposed multiple compromises. Speaker Moore has been publicly silent. But I’ll work to bring every single Democratic legislator to support an effective compromise that does not include a referendum.

Time is running short, but we can reach an agreement — if Speaker Moore provides leadership to his own caucus.