Raleigh, N.C. — A handful of Republican House members balked Wednesday morning at the special legislative session called to repeal a state law that limits LGBT rights.
Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, filed a formal protest, calling the session unconstitutional because there was no “extraordinary circumstance” that warranted Gov. Pat McCrory from bringing lawmakers back to Raleigh for their fifth special session of the year.
“The only extraordinary thing that has happened is the extraordinary hubris of a city council that the General Assembly act by a certain date,” Collins said.
The Charlotte City Council voted Monday to repeal a local ordinance that requires businesses in the city to allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice if state lawmakers acted by Dec. 31 to repeal House Bill 2.
The General Assembly enacted House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, in a one-day emergency session in March to nullify the Charlotte ordinance. But the state law also barred the LGBT community from nondiscrimination protections, setting off national criticism that led to canceled concerts, conventions and athletic events.
State Republican leaders have said that, if Charlotte lifted its local ordinance, a repeal of House Bill 2 would follow, and McCrory called Monday night for a special session of the General Assembly on Wednesday to do just that.
“When did we give authority to city councils to call us into session?” Collins asked, noting lawmakers spent part of last week trying to reclaim some authority previous legislatures had ceded to governors.
“We shouldn’t even be here,” said Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, who joined in the protest.
Rep. Michael Speciale, R-Craven, who also joined in the protest, tried to adjourn the House session before any actions could be taken, but House Speaker Tim Moore ruled him out of order.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest also came out against a repeal effort.
“No economic, political or ideological can convince me that what is wrong is right,” Forest said via Twitter. “If HB2 is repealed, there will be nothing on the books to prevent another city or county to take us down this path again.”
Charlotte council clarifies action
In an emergency meeting Wednesday morning, the Charlotte City Council sought to clarify its transgender nondiscrimination ordinance to pave the way for a repeal of House Bill 2.
Charlotte’s action on Monday “turned back the clock” on the city’s list of people with protected status, removing protections based on marital status, family status, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, city attorney Robert E. Hagemann told the council on Wednesday.
“You did repeal all the public accommodation ordinance on Monday,” Hagemann said.
However, the council’s action left on the books a portion of the February ordinance that was not pre-empted by House Bill 2. By a 7-2 vote Wednesday, the council removed those parts from city code as well.
Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, accused Democrats on the Charlotte City Council and incoming Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of scuttling previous attempts to repeal House Bill 2 through a compromise and then of lying about Charlotte’s repeal vote on Monday.
“They and they alone created this problem and have now seriously harmed HB2 repeal efforts,” Woodhouse said in a statement early Wednesday.
Councilman Ed Driggs issued a statement late Tuesday saying the council “acted in good faith to do everything that it understood was necessary to facilitate the repeal of HB2.”
““There was no effort on the part of council to preserve or protect any portion of the city code that was in conflict with that understanding,” Driggs said. “If the General Assembly needs us to consider doing more, we ask for a clear explanation of exactly what that entails. If necessary, Charlotte City Council will act to address any unintended omissions from the ordinance it passed on Monday.”
A special thank you to our friends at WRAL for helping out with this post.