North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday failed to reach a deal to scrap House Bill 2 (HB2), the so-called "bathroom bill” that bans transgender people from using public restrooms that don’t match the gender on their birth certificate.
Since its passage earlier this year, the anti-LGBTQ law has helped oust the sitting governor; has triggered a boycott of the state by businesses, performers and sports leagues; and has cost North Carolina at least tens of millions—and by some estimates hundreds of millions—of dollars.
“I’m so disappointed in the failure of GOP legislative leaders to do the right thing for the state of North Carolina,” Chris Sgro, an openly gay member of the North Carolina General Assembly and the executive director of Equality North Carolina, told NBC Out.
Nearly 300 days after the initial passage of “the worst anti-LGBT bill in the entire nation” and hundreds of millions of dollars, by Sgro's estimate, in lost revenue, North Carolina is "worse off" now than it was before HB2 was passed, he added.
“Phil Berger and Tim Moore, the GOP legislative leaders, engaged in political antics instead of the business of our state,” Sgro said, adding “because of that, North Carolina remains closed for business.”
Cecil Brockman, the only other openly LGBTQ lawmaker in North Carolina’s General Assembly, said he’s “extremely disappointed by the failure of General Assembly Republicans to follow through on their end of the deal to fully repeal HB2."
“This harmful and discriminatory law has been a disaster for North Carolina, damaging both our economy and reputation on the national stage. Instead of showing that North Carolina is open for business, Republicans decided to play games and wasted our time and taxpayers’ money,” Brockman said. “
The negative reaction to North Carolina’s failure to repeal HB2 spread much further than the confines of the Tar Heel State. National LGBTQ-rights organizations, national civil rights groups, multinational corporations and prominent LGBTQ advocates publicly expressed their disappointment.
“The North Carolina General Assembly is a national disgrace,” Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement sent to NBC Out.
“North Carolina—particularly transgender North Carolinians—cannot have any faith in their shameless lawmakers,” Keisling added. “We continue to stand with the people of North Carolina, particularly the transgender people who have been harmed by HB2 and their own lawmakers’ actions, and we will continue to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with them until this shameful legislation is repealed in its entirety.
Elizabeth Kohm, the interim executive director of PFLAG, the nation’s largest LGBTQ family and ally organization, called Wednesday’s failure to repeal HB2 “outrageous, unconscionable and unacceptable.”
“We have waited months for fairness and dignity to prevail. Now, instead of doing what’s right, North Carolina’s legislators will retire to the comfort of their homes and families for the holidays, leaving our families living or visiting there still vulnerable and still unprotected,” Kohm added.
“GOP lawmakers have turned their backs on LGBTQ people, workers, veterans, women and people of faith,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund, said in a statement.
“Self-interested North Carolina politicians showed that they will stop at nothing as they resigned themselves to an even worse reputation and an economy that’s continuing to plummet,” Carey added. “If nothing else, these lawmakers not only need to repeal HB2 but also pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. If they do nothing, HB2 will go down in history as one of the most vindictive and damaging laws in the state’s recent history.”
So, is there an end in sight for House Bill 2?
“Governor-elect Cooper said it best yesterday when he said this was our ‘best chance’ but not our ‘last chance’ to repeal House Bill 2,” State Rep. Sgro said. “If Phil Berger and Tim Moore are any kind of leaders for the state of North Carolina, they will immediately take up the full repeal of House Bill 2 in the long session.”
Sgro’s term ends on Dec. 31, but Brockman, also a Democrat, will remain in the state’s General Assembly in 2017. He vowed to continue the fight against HB2.
“I will continue to speak out against HB2 and push for statewide non-discrimination protection for the LGBT community. We have North Carolinians who are marginalized and vulnerable; it is well past time that we act to help those most in need,” he said.