At this point we aren’t convinced that most North Carolinians understand what House Bill 2 did before last week’s “reset,” or what House Bill 142, the new legislation, actually accomplishes.
Perhaps the best measure of HB142 is that it is loathed by both the far left and the far right, so it has that going for it. The most vocal critics, however, appear to be those in the LBGTQ community who remain angry that in North Carolina it remains against the law for a person who was born male to use the bathroom for females, and vice-versa.
That underlines the silliness of HB2, which was little more than an overreaction by Republican legislators and Gov. Pat McCrory to the Charlotte City Council’s adoption of an ordinance that allowed people to use the bathroom that aligned with their sexual identify, regardless of whether or not they had the corresponding body parts.
The Atlantic Coast Conference, which took some sporting events out of North Carolina as a reaction to HB2, has bought in with the reset, saying Friday that the Tar Heel state is back on the approved list for venues. The NCAA, which we believe HB142 was crafted to appease, has been more deliberate, but we should know soon if this state will again be considered as a venue for NCAA championship events through 2022. We can assure you the NCAA, like the ACC, doesn’t want North Carolina off its list of sites eligible for championship events, because doing so costs that organization money.
We don’t know if all of this has been the most embarrassing chapter in our state’s long history, but it has to be on the short list. And we will say again: It was all about nothing.
Before Charlotte acted, we are unaware of any outcry from men or women who self-identify as the opposite sex being denied the bathroom of their choice. Nor do we believe that during the reign of HB2 that these people did their business elsewhere.
Perhaps never has there been more discussion about legislation that did so little — except for the economic damage that was inflicted and, if a study from the Associated Press is to be believed, could have approached $4 billion during the next 11 years.
All five of our local legislators voted in favor of HB142, but they seem anxious to tell voters in perhaps the state’s most conservative county socially that there remains a law in place that makes it illegal for people to use the bathroom that does not align with their sex at birth.
We would say that HB2 was little more than an attempt by Republican lawmakers and former Gov. Pat McCrory — who always seemed ambivalent but never got out the veto pen — to show the city of Charlotte who was boss. Except that the original HB2 also removed some workplace protections for those in the LBGTQ community.
The new law makes clear that only state legislators — not local government or school officials — can make rules for public restrooms from now on, and its kicks this ball down the road, prohibiting any local governments from enacting workplace protections for gay or transgender people until December 2020.
The initial reaction to HB142 from the business community appears to be mixed, and time will tell the extent to which North Carolina will continue to suffer economic damage. We know this: The less HB2 is in the news, the less likely that political pressure will turn business, entertainers and sports organizations in another direction.
If HB 142 manages to hush the conversation, then it will have accomplished what we believe to be its most important job.