You know all about HB2—the North Carolina ordinance signed into law last year that famously discriminates against transgender people by requiring them to use public bathrooms corresponding to their gender at birth, rather than the gender they currently identify with, based on fears of criminal activity that have no basis in reality. (It did lots of other horrible shit too, like forbidding any local anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people, forbidding local minimum wage hikes, and forbidding local child labor regulations, but who’s counting?) The law was so bad that it became a national embarrassment, and even led to Republican governor Pat McCrory just barely losing his re-election bid to a living, breathing Democrat—even as the state went for Trump.
Now, assuming the votes go as expected in the N.C. House and Senate today, HB2 is history. Roy Cooper, the new governor, reached an agreement with the Republican legislature to repeal the law. By the end of the day, transgender people in the state won’t have to stress about getting arrested for using a public bathroom.
Well, sort of. The repeal bill, since it’s a “compromise,” also includes language that maintains some of the uglier parts of the original HB2. Per The Times:
A bill repealing House Bill 2, which the legislature will consider on Thursday, would also create a moratorium on local nondiscrimination ordinances through 2020 and leave regulation of “multi-occupancy facilities,” or bathrooms, to state lawmakers.
Oh. So employers and businesses can still discriminate against LGBT people, and…wait…politicians are still regulating bathrooms? What the hell is happening?
As Republican Senate leader Phil Berger and Republican House speaker Tim Moore said, “compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy.”
Meanwhile, Cooper said that it begins to “repair our reputation,” but admitted that it was not “perfect.”
So why is this happening now? Why this half-hearted “deal” that doesn’t satisfy gay rights activists at all? I mean, it really, really is not impressive to the people on the front lines:
Gay rights advocates were harshly critical of the bill. Cathryn Oakley, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said that the compromise would leave lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people with no statewide anti-discrimination ordinance and no ability to seek such protections from local government for a number of years.
“What that means for the L.G.B.T. community is that we continue to be boxed out of nondiscrimination protections,” she said.
Chris Sgro, executive director of the gay rights group Equality North Carolina, said that the proposal “keeps North Carolina as the only state in the country obsessed with where trans people use the restroom through law.”
I’ll tell you why it’s happening now: Basketball.
The broader answer is money—as Jason Rhode pointed out at Paste yesterday, the AP estimates that the law has cost the state about $3.76 billion in lost revenue. But more pressingly, the NCAA imposed a deadline of—you guessed it—TODAY! for the state to do something about HB2. If they failed, the organization would continue to deny the state the chance to host any championship events. North Carolina is a basketball-crazy state, and just this year, opening weekend March Madness games were moved from Greensboro, NC to Greenville, SC because of HB2—where, incidentally, Duke had to play against South Carolina in front of a hostile crowd, and lost. Meanwhile, UNC’s basketball team has reached the Final Four, and the relocation undoubtedly denied many fans the opportunity to watch their team in Greensboro during what might be a championship run.
The pressure to find a solution, before the NCAA decided on championship venues through 2022, was immense. And the result is this “solution,” which is purely cosmetic, maintains the ugly parts of the original HB2 discrimination, and is meant not to restore rights to a discriminated people, but to do as little as possible while still placating the almighty gods of basketball.
How inspiring, North Carolina.