On the first day of the General Assembly’s short session, Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake), Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake), Rep. Graig Mayer (D-Orange), and Rep. Susi Hamilton (D-New Hanover) officially filed HB 976, which would fully repeal HB 2. In a press conference afterwards, Jackson said that North Carolina was at a “critical mass.”
“North Carolina has lost over a thousand jobs and millions of dollars in a little over a month,” Jackson said. “We may never know the full impact of the damage being done to our reputation.”
Rep. Ed Hanes (D-Forsyth), a member from Winston-Salem, said that “tens of millions of dollars have been lost to the Triad economy in three weeks.” Hanes also said a “major operation” decided not to come to the Triad because of HB 2. “In excess of three thousand jobs lost over what can’t be termed as anything other than foolishness,” he said.
“So North Carolina, this is what it looks like when Donald Trump has it right,” Hanes said, in reference to the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination’s opposition to HB 2. “And the leaders of your state not only have it wrong, but established a hotline, as of yesterday, to report HB 2.” (It doesn’t look like the administration has set up such a hotline; Hanes might have been tricked by this fake ABC News post.)
During the press conference, several other legislators, as well as North Carolina NAACP head Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, filed in. Hamilton introduced the newest member of the Democratic caucus, Rep. Chris Sgro, the Equality NC executive director who was picked by the Guilford County Democratic Party to serve out the rest of the late Rep. Ralph Johnson’s term.
Martin highlighted the fact that the bill didn’t include veteran status, something he debated with Republican Skip Stam (Wake) during the hasty special session back in March. The proposed amendment from Martin that would have included sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status was tabled.
“We now have a situation where an openly gay member of the military could deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq and defend our precious freedom,” Martin said, “and yet when they come back home and take one step off that military installation, there is nothing in NC law that protects them from being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. That is unconscionable.”
The legislators acknowledged that their bill has little chance of passing; Senate President Phil Berger has already said he’s not open to repealing HB 2. Asked about narrower legislation that would seek to restore the cause of action for North Carolina workers to file workplace discrimination claims in state courts, Jackson said that he believed that it was “needed, but doesn’t go far enough.”
“I don’t think that addressing that small part, although important, it won’t stop what we’re seeing nationwide, the harm that’s being done to our business community,” Jackson said. “Nothing short of full repeal would do that.”