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How North Carolina got stuck with its infamous anti-trans law

How North Carolina got stuck with HB2, its infamous anti-trans law

Lest anyone think partisan dysfunction is unique to national politics, North Carolina’s political climate has grown so toxic that lawmakers there failed to undo an anti-trans law after reaching a compromise and convening a special legislative session to do just that.

House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill, today remains in effect despite the efforts of local legislators and a nine-hour special General Assembly session on Wednesday to repeal it. The law mandates that trans people must use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender they were assigned at birth and blocks local governments from passing their own legal protections for trans residents. Since the law remains on the books, presumably so too will the corporate boycotts of the state that are costing North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars. Thursday, the North Carolina NAACP called for an even greater economic boycott.

Here’s how a battle between local and state government over rights for trans residents turned the Tar Heel state into a symbol for political dysfunction:

April 29, 2014
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights publishes guidance saying for the first time that transgender students at federally funded schools are protected from discrimination under Title IX, the gender equality law.

March 2, 2015
Charlotte’s city council holds a public hearing to discuss adding LGBTQ individuals to the list of protected classes under the city’s nondiscrimination law. The proposal is defeated.

Nov. 3, 2015
Jennifer Roberts is elected Charlotte’s new mayor. Roberts strongly supports protecting the LGBTQ community under city law.

Nov. 21, 2015
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory releases a statement calling on Attorney General Roy Cooper (now the state’s governor-elect) to stop “federal overreach,” citing the Education Department’s new Title IX guidelines on transgender students.

Jan. 2016
The Republican National Committee issues a memo urging the Department of Education to “rescind its interpretation of Title IX that wrongly includes facility use issues by transgender students.”

Feb. 21, 2016
McCrory warns two Charlotte City Council members that the state would likely take “immediate state legislative intervention” should the council approve the LGBTQ protections.

Feb. 22, 2016
Charlotte City Council votes 7-4 in favor of expanding the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to include LGBTQ individuals, effective April 1.

Feb. 23, 2016
North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore calls for legislative action in response to Charlotte’s new nondiscrimination rules. “Charlotte City Council has gone against all common sense and created a major public safety issue,” Moore said in a statement.

March 21, 2016
Moore and Senate president Lt. Gov. Dan Forest call a special session for March 23. “We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state,” Moore and Forest write in a statement.

March 23, 2016
In just one day, the assembly passes House Bill 2, eliminating protections for LGBTQ individuals, mandating that transgender people use bathrooms corresponding to their gender assigned at birth, and blocking cities, like Charlotte, from passing nondiscrimination ordinances. McCrory signs it the same day.

March 28, 2016
The fallout begins. The ACLU of North Carolina files a lawsuit against McCrory, Cooper, and the state of North Carolina, saying HB2 violates “the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution.”

March 29, 2016
Cooper distances himself from the new law, calling it a “national embarrassment” and saying his office would not defend HB2 on behalf of the state. “This new law provides for broad-based discrimination,” Cooper writes in a statement. “Obviously the LGBT community is targeted.”

April 5, 2016
PayPal cancels plans to open a new facility in North Carolina that would have created 400 new jobs.

April 8, 2016
Bruce Springsteen becomes the first musician to cancel a concert because of HB2. A flurry of other musicians follow suit over the next month, including Pearl Jam, Boston, Maroon 5, Demi Lovato, and Ringo Starr. “I’m sorry to disappoint my fans in the area but we need to take a stand against this hatred,” Starr writes. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority announces that the city has lost 13 conventions and events due to the passage of HB2.

April 12, 2016
Deutsche Bank halts plans to create 250 new jobs at its technology development center in North Carolina, citing HB2. McCrory issues an executive order that prohibits state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, but leaves the rest of HB2 in place.

May 9, 2016
McCrory and state Republicans file separate lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Justice stating that HB2 is not discriminatory against the state’s LGBTQ community. Justice files a counter lawsuit against North Carolina, saying that HB2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

May 23, 2016
The Charlotte City Council postpones a vote on revoking its nondiscrimination ordinance.

July 8, 2016
Sixty-eight companies, including Nike, Apple, Pepsi, Whole Foods, and American Airlines, file a court brief against North Carolina in an effort to block HB2.

July 21, 2016
The NBA announces plans to pull its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. (About two months later, the ACC and NCAA relocate championship games out of North Carolina.)

Sept. 16, 2016
McCrory rescinds his lawsuit against the Department of Justice, citing “substantial costs” to the state. The lawsuit brought by state Republicans against the DOJ remains.

Sept. 19, 2016
State lawmakers propose a deal: McCrory will call a special session to consider repealing HB2 if the Charlotte City Council revokes its nondiscrimination ordinance. The City Council rejects the proposal.

Nov. 8, 2016
Cooper, a Democrat, beats McCrory in the race for governor.

Dec. 19, 2016
In a deal brokered by Cooper, the Charlotte City Council agrees to revoke its nondiscrimination ordinance if state lawmakers hold a special session to vote on repealing HB2. The City Council’s vote contains a provision saying that Charlotte can reinstate its nondiscrimination ordinance if state lawmakers fail to repeal HB2 by Dec. 31. McCrory calls a special General Assembly session for Dec. 21.

Dec. 20, 2016
After learning about the City Council’s provision to reinstate their nondiscrimination ordinance by Dec. 31 if HB2 is not repealed, some Republican state lawmakers protest. Dallas Woodhouse, head of the North Carolina Republican party, takes to Facebook ahead of the special session to slam Cooper and the City Council, accusing them of having “lied directly to the people of North Carolina, the legislature and Gov. McCrory about repealing the Charlotte City Council ordinance that caused HB2.”

Dec. 21, 2016
Charlotte’s City Council reconvenes and votes to revoke the ordinance, this time without the Dec. 31 provision. State lawmakers assemble in Raleigh for a special session. Some Democratic senators propose repealing HB2 after a six-month “cooling off period” during which cities like Charlotte would be barred from passing nondiscrimination ordinances, but others advocate for a hard repeal. “A cloud of HB2 has hung over the people and the economy of this state,” says Sen. Mike Woodard. “A six-month moratorium is not what we came here to do. It only prolongs the cloud.”

Sen. Floyd McKissick expresses concern that the “moratorium” could turn into a permanent ban on cities having nondiscrimination protections and likens HB2 to discrimination he faced as an African-American growing up under Jim Crow: “Every day we let HB2 remain on the books is a scar on the reputation of North Carolina.”

After a heated debate on the floor, a surprise GOP caucus, and several prolonged recesses, lawmakers fail to repeal HB2, with some Republicans blaming it on the “disingenuous Charlotte City Council.”

The General Assembly is next due to meet on Jan. 11.

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