Moderates thekey to endingHB2 deadlock

The Wilson Tiems

Sen. Rick Horner didn’t create the mess, but he’s willing to roll up his sleeves to help fix it.

Wilson County’s newest state legislator expressed optimism that cooler heads will prevail in the partisan grudge match still simmering on Jones Street over our state’s world-famous bathroom bill.

Horner told the Times this week that he’ll work toward a compromise to remove HB2 from the books and prevent cities from plunging headlong into the shark-infested waters of gender identity and restroom access.

“I don’t have an issue with repealing the bill,” Horner said. “I don’t think Charlotte had a right to do what it did. I just think we need to figure out a way to preserve where we were prior to HB2.”

A statewide reset — striking down Charlotte’s LGBT-friendly nondiscrimination ordinance and the state’s LGBT-hostile Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act — would serve as an effective compromise that most North Carolinians can live with.

In an overture of inclusion for the transgender community, Charlotte passed a city rule allowing people to use the bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. This didn’t sit well with Republican legislative leaders, who objected to private businesses being forced to accommodate personal choices to which they may object on moral and traditional grounds.

The General Assembly countered with HB2, which purports to protect restroom privacy by requiring people to use sex-segregated facilities that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate, though the law is a paper tiger with no enforcement mechanism and no penalty for violators.

From where we sit, the entire contrived controversy is a phantom. Most transgender people share the outward physical characteristics of the gender with which they identify. We don’t think they needed Charlotte’s permission to answer nature’s call, and we don’t think the legislature’s empty threat is doing anything to stop them.

Ironically, the businesses GOP lawmakers claimed to defend found House Bill 2 intolerable. Blue-chip companies called the law discriminatory and scrapped plans to bring jobs. Musicians canceled concerts. The NBA and NCAA moved basketball tournaments out of state in protest. National news networks trained the harsh glare of their studio lights on our state.

HB2’s economic impact — more than half a billion dollars in lost revenue, by some estimates — and waves of negative publicity are reasons enough to put this failed experiment in big-government bathroom bans behind us.

The partisan bickering and political dysfunction HB2 has spawned is, perhaps, an even better one.

Extremists on the far left and far right have dominated the discussion, leaving little room for compromise. That’s why a deal to repeal House Bill 2 and enact a moratorium on city nondiscrimination rules sank in the state Senate Dec. 21.

It’s time to send the squabbling children to their corners and listen to the grownups in the room.

Rick Horner is one such adult, a pragmatic Republican who realizes HB2 needs to go, but also wants to ensure that this costly episode is not soon repeated.

Horner said a repeal of House Bill 2 must be packaged with a moratorium in order to ensure that Charlotte’s overreach won’t be repeated somewhere else, prompting another heavy-handed overreaction from the General Assembly. We agree.

Democrats balked at the moratorium on Dec. 21. We urge them to go back to the negotiating table. This is the right deal at the right time, and with veto-proof GOP majorities in both chambers, it may be the best bargain they can get.

Some on the left may consider it a setback that cities can’t pay lip service to diversity and inclusiveness through symbolic ordinances. Instead, they should consider their glass half-full in ridding North Carolina of HB2’s folly.

Some Republicans, too, are wary of compromise, insisting that House Bill 2 should stand. To them, we ask exactly what problem this law solves with Charlotte’s ordinance off the books. It represents a staggering economic cost with no tangible gain.

Moderates on the left and right need to stand up to the extreme factions in their parties and govern from the center.

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