It’s that time of the General Assembly session when legislative leaders are talking about adjourning and leaving town. House Speaker Tim Moore said this week that the odds are 50-50 that the session will end before July 4th while Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown says the odds are better than that.
Most of that speculation comes from news that House and Senate negotiators working behind closed doors on a final budget agreement are close to a deal which is always the biggest hurdle standing in the way of ending a typical legislative session.
But this is not a typical year.
Lawmakers have been meeting all session long under a cloud of boycotts, lost jobs, cancelled conventions and national outrage since they passed the sweeping anti-LGBT law HB2 in a rushed one-day special session in March, just a few weeks before the current session convened in April.
More than 200 hundred corporations have called on Gov. Pat McCrory and legislative leaders to repeal HB2 that goes far beyond overturning an ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council that simply protected LGBT people from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, and public facilities.
Companies have cancelled projects in the state, trade groups have moved conventions to other states and the NBA is considering taking the 2017 all-star game out of Charlotte unless HB2 is repealed.
There have been protests about the law throughout the session, including a rally Wednesday night where several hundred people came to Raleigh to demand repeal.
The law bans all local governments from passing anti-discrimination measures, requires people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their “biological sex,” creates a statewide nondiscrimination standard that goes out of its way not to protect LGBT people, and takes away the right of workers illegally fired to sue in state court.
It also voids local ordinances requiring government contractors to pay a living wage and prohibits cities and towns from passing any in the future.
Gov. McCrory and other defenders of HB2 continue to focus only on the provision in the Charlotte ordinance that allows transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, a policy already in place in 22 states and more than 200 cities across the country without causing any problems.
McCrory’s office restated their unwavering support for HB2 this week after the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced a common sense policy for the fall that would allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, a policy that school officials point out follows federal law.
There are several lawsuits about the public facility provisions in HB2 now pending in federal courts.
But from the beginning HB2 has been about far more than bathroom policy, as absurd as McCrory’s position has been on that part of the law.
It is really about LGBT rights, about treating people fairly and protecting them from being fired from their job or denied services simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
That’s more important than ever after the horrific events in Orlando where a gunman killed 49 people in a gay night club and injured 53 more.
There have been several rumors of a deal between House and Senate leaders to modify HB2 to respond to the overwhelming opposition to it from the business community in North Carolina and across the country.
But nothing has happened and it’s not clear anything will. McCrory has asked lawmakers only to restore the rights of workers illegally fired to sue in state court but they have ignored those requests.
McCrory has refused to call for a statewide nondiscrimination standard that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, which is the first thing lawmakers should pass if they are not going to be repeal HB2 fully, which remains the best solution.
McCrory and his allies in the General Assembly need to make it clear that discrimination is not the official policy of the state. That’s the very least businesses want to hear. But lawmakers can’t seem to even do that.
House Majority Leader Mike Hager said recently that he wouldn’t support any major changes to HB2 . Allowing people to be fired from their job because they are gay is apparently fine with him.
House Speaker Pro Tem Paul Stam released a screed recently disputing that sexual orientation was even real, bizarrely comparing being gay to polygamy and adultery.
And these are the leaders of the House.
It doesn’t matter when the General Assembly adjourns if they don’t address the issue that has defined this session and has hurt North Carolina’s reputation across the world.
The important question isn’t when the legislative session will end, it is when will lawmakers come to their senses and repeal the law that is hurting people and damaging the state.