Opinion: An HB2 ‘Compromise’? Why?

Charlotte City Council should resist making a deal with no upside
City of Charlotte

For the life of me, I can’t understand why Charlotte City Council members would even consider a compromise on House Bill 2—or why they would even consider some kind of deal with the General Assembly a “compromise” at all.

What’s provisionally on the table is an offer by the City Council to rescind the changes to its nondiscrimination ordinance, the changes HB2 nullified. In return, the legislature would consider—consider—allowing Charlotte and other cities to extend protected-class status to LGBT people as long as the changes passed public referenda in the cities.

The presumed benefit for the city is to ward off any more HB2-related boycotts. But there’s no guarantee that any deal would accomplish that goal. Boycotts and concert cancellations have been aimed at the whole of North Carolina, not just Charlotte. And for Charlotte to backtrack on its commitment would seem to give boycotters even less incentive to reward the city.

So who would push for this thing? When I first read about it in the Observer, I thought: Well, somebody at the Charlotte Chamber’s been making some calls and sending some emails. Sure enough, on Sunday came an op-ed from Chamber President Bob Morgan that literally defies logic. I mean:

We often hear that our City Council “lit the match” in passing the non-discrimination ordinance earlier this year. The symbolism associated with the request that the Council rescind an ordinance that, like other ordinances, is on the books but invalid, carries with it the ability for our city to say we also subsequently acted to disarm members of the legislature who would make such claims.

It takes about 10 reads to even try to translate it, but I think I get the gist. Raleigh punched Charlotte in the face, claiming Charlotte provoked Raleigh. If Charlotte punches itself in the face, if only symbolically, it would “disarm” any attempt by Raleigh to claim provocation and make any further punches unnecessary. I don’t seem to recall the Chamber adopting the same line of thinking when the General Assembly tried to take over the airport.

But the concern was great enough to spur four council members—Republicans Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith and Democrats James Mitchell and Vi Lyles, the mayor pro tem—to meet recently with legislative leaders in Raleigh to discuss options. “Some of what I’ve heard from the General Assembly is that total inaction on our part is not helpful,” Driggs said during a council meeting last week.

Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? Know what else is unhelpful? A state law that openly discriminates against LGBT people, causes severe and measurable damage to North Carolina’s economy, and stands an excellent chance of being reversed in court and remembered as this generation’s Jim Crow.

National public opinion is on the council’s side; so is the U.S. Department of Justice. The other party in this “deal” would be a legislature that’s shown no hesitation over the last three-plus years to grind Charlotte’s nose in the dirt for any reason, or none at all. Under those circumstances, why would the council—why would anyone—want to cut a deal?

Categories: The Buzz