Update: The repeal bill passed this afternoon with 70 votes. It is now going to Gov. Roy Cooper to sign.
In North Carolina, legislators said they reached a compromise last night to repeal HB 2, the discriminatory anti-trans law that mandated people in the state use the bathroom in accordance with the sex listed on their birth certificate.
The proposed repeal was prompted by increasing backlash—North Carolina stands to lose $3.7 billion from business boycotts of the state. The NCAA threatened to eliminate all championship events that were scheduled there until 2022, unless North Carolina repealed the bill by today.
However, the repeal bill that was ultimately decided on by Democrats and Republicans in the state is still damaging to the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper endorsed the agreement, though he noted it was not a "perfect deal." Advocates and the LGBTQ community say that is an understatement, as the law would ban local governments from passing any LGBTQ non-discrimination laws for three years.
"I was excited to hear about a repeal, but then I read the details," said Jennifer Holt, a mother of a transgender student—Vinnie—who has been in a battle with her son's school in Charlotte, North Carolina since HB 2 was passed. "It's a repeal in name only. It's clear that this repeal is not being done for human rights. It's being done for the NCAA."
Vinnie has not been allowed to use boys restroom under HB 2, Holt says, even though he goes to what she considers to be a progressive school, Northwest School of the Arts. She added that his school is fearful of repercussions under the state law. "They're offering substitutions, such as a gender neutral bathroom, but that hasn't happened," Holt said. When Vinnie needs to go to the bathroom his mom says he "either doesn't go" or he uses a bathroom that's only accessible through a room where staff meets, which is often locked. "It's been a very stressful and challenging time," she said.
The repeal bill passed through one chamber of the state legislature this morning, and it is heading for a vote in the House. If it passes there, it will go to the governor for his signature.
It's clear that this repeal is not being done for human rights. It's being done for the NCAA.
The way the school has reacted to HB 2 makes Holt feel uncertain of how they will react if this so-called repeal passes, which may only add additional confusion to the status of how institutions perceive transgender rights in North Carolina. "I don't know if they will say that even though HB 2 is repealed, parts of the law [still deny protections for transgender students] so we can't do anything," Holt said.
Chase Strangio, staff attorney at the ACLU, says the message that North Carolina is sending is clear: The rights of transgender people in the state are still being denied. "The old bill created an affirmative ban tied to birth certificates. The new one says that no entity can act to permit such access. Same effect, different formulation," he wrote in an email to Broadly. "In certain ways, this is more insidious because it is being distorted as less harmful when trans people remain in the cross hairs of legal discrimination and anti-trans rhetoric."
Strangio says that North Carolina would still be in conflict with federal non-discrimination law, which prohibits sex-based discrimination; dozens of courts across the country have ruled that that includes gender identity. "This law doubles down on precisely the type of discrimination against trans people that the country rejected," he said. "The rhetoric of 'compromise' suggests that somehow this new version of HB2 is not anti-trans but it is. The law would prohibit any government entity, including any school, from permitting trans people to use restrooms that accord with who we are even though such a mandate directly conflicts with federal law."