North Carolina Republican leaders are blasting their Democratic colleagues after a supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal the state’s “bathroom bill” limiting LGBT protections collapsed Wednesday night, with every Senate Democrat balking in the end.
Both sides were pointing fingers in the aftermath of the unproductive special session, called specifically to consider repeal legislation for the law known as House Bill 2. The law omits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protections, bars local governments from passing broad non-discrimination ordinances covering them, and orders transgender people to use bathrooms and showers that align with their sex at birth.
"I'm disappointed that we have yet to remove the stain from the reputation of our great state that is around this country and around the world," Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said.
But Republicans put the blame squarely on Democrats, noting that all 16 Senate Democrats voted against the repeal legislation in the end. Republicans in the Senate fell on both sides of the issue, with some voting to repeal and some voting against.
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, blamed Cooper and his allies for sinking the effort. He issued a lengthy statement on Facebook and Twitter accusing Democrats of “hypocrisy” and accusing them of using the controversy for political gain.
“This should tell you all you need to know about Cooper and Senate Democrats’ motives,” he said. “They aren’t interested in moving past this issue or protecting the privacy and safety of North Carolina families. They’re brass-knuckled politicians who want to wage a nasty culture war with divisive issues, so they can keep filling their campaign coffers with cash from fringe liberal activists.”
GOP legislators who see themselves as business-friendly appeared shaken by a months-long backlash as major companies like BASF, IBM and Bank of America described HB2 as bad for business.
The compromise touted by both Cooper and outgoing GOP Gov. Pat McCrory called for Charlotte to do away with its own expanded antidiscrimination ordinance. In exchange, lawmakers would undo the LGBT law.
But some conservatives never wanted to repeal the law. And when the Senate bill went a step further and called for a months-long ban on cities passing similar ordinances, Democrats said Republicans were going back on their promise.
Cooper reportedly said GOP leaders “broke the deal” by adding the local ordinance moratorium.
Berger, however, noted that the Senate ended up splitting the bill into two parts, allowing a straight vote on the repeal only. It still failed.
“All 16 of them voted NO. Why? Politics. Hypocrisy. And Roy Cooper,” he wrote.
North Carolina GOP Chairman Robin Hayes accused Democrats of “smoke and mirrors.”
Social conservatives also opposed the repeal for their own reasons, defending the law's transgender bathroom requirement -- which has no enforcement or punishment provisions -- as necessary to prevent heterosexual predators from masquerading as transgender to molest women and girls when they are vulnerable.
"We continue to encourage our leaders to never sacrifice the privacy, safety, or freedom of young girls by forcing them to use the bathroom, shower, or change clothes with grown men just to satisfy the demands of greedy businesses, immoral sports organizations, or angry mobs," North Carolina Values Coalition Executive Director Tami Fitzgerald said in a statement.
HB2 has been blasted by gay-rights groups and resulted in conventions, jobs and sporting events such as the NBA All-Star Game shunning North Carolina. Corporate critics of the law included Deutsche Bank and Paypal, which both backed out of projects that would have brought hundreds of jobs to the state.
"The NCAA's decision to withhold championships from North Carolina remains unchanged," spokesman Bob Williams said.
McCrory signed the law and became its national face. HB2, along with other right-leaning bills he signed, turned this fall's gubernatorial campaign into a referendum on the state's recent conservative slant. He lost by about 10,000 votes to Cooper. Meanwhile, fellow Republicans U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and President-elect Donald Trump comfortably won the state.
McCrory, the first sitting North Carolina governor elected to a four-year term to lose re-election, echoed Republican accusations that "the left sabotaged bipartisan good faith agreements for political purposes."
Repealing the state law could also have ended protracted legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate Virginia case on transgender restroom access.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.