In refusing to even consider a modification or repeal of its non-discrimination ordinance last night, the message from Charlotte, N.C.’s mayor and other local leaders, to both its citizens and the state government in Raleigh could not be more clear: in taking the side of equality advocates, we stand by all our citizens, and refuse to buckle to your hateful attempt to impede the advancement of civil rights, known as House Bill 2.
The official statement by the Charlotte City Council was a little more diplomatic, of course.
“The Mayor and City Council will continue to work with the General Assembly and with business and community leaders to address the continuing negative impacts of HB2 on the City of Charlotte and North Carolina. Charlotte remains committed to being a welcoming and inclusive community that is free of discrimination.”
It wasn’t so clear earlier Monday afternoon in the council chambers, as Republicans attempted to forge a compromise agreement that would repeal February’s non-discrimination ordinance, which was the impetus for the state legislature’s sweeping, hastily conceived and highly controversial law. H.B. 2 overrides every North Carolina city’s ability to establish protections against discrimination, and legislates which bathrooms people may use based solely on the gender marker assigned on their birth certificate.
The push behind the repeal effort was to win concessions from state lawmakers, who would in turn make changes to H.B. 2 in order to stop boycotts by popular entertainers and sports organizations, and other economically painful pressure from businesses and groups. According to the Charlotte Observer, it wasn’t a formal deal but a quid pro quo designed to safe face as well as Charlotte’s and the state’s worsening reputation.
“Repeal and replace HB2 – or at least key parts of it. The replacement could take several forms. One possibility is to allow cities to craft ordinances making sexual orientation a protected class, as Charlotte did, so long as local voters approved the measure in a referendum. Republicans could say they’re letting citizens make the choice, not ‘radical’ city leaders, a concept that could soothe at least some conservative voters back home.”
But Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Williams — who’s known to wear a tee-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Charlotte” and “Always Welcome” — wasn’t interested. The Mecklenburg Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual and Transgender Political Action Committee known as MeckPAC, broke the news on Facebook: “Due to lack of consensus and not enough votes among the Charlotte City Council to repeal or modify the Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance, Mayor Jennifer Roberts has pulled the issue from the City Council meeting agenda.”
The city council confirmed the move with the above statement about “working together,” released to WCCB Monday evening.
So, it appears as if Charlotte has dug in its heels. While the dueling lawsuits by North Carolina vs. the U.S. Department of Justice and the D.O.J versus the government of North Carolina are prepared, Charlotte is keeping its law on the books, and telling state lawmakers they’re not going to budge until the question of whether H.B. 2 is legal is decided. That is an issue experts believe could wind its way all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.