As North Carolina's General Assembly began its new session on Monday, it was greeted by tens of thousands of people calling for the repeal of the state's much maligned anti-LGBTQ House Bill 2 (HB 2), passed during a one-day special session on March 23.
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The legislation, which opponents say is unconstitutional, requires that transgender people use bathrooms that match the sex on their birth certificates, and forbids cities and counties from enacting their own ordinances to prohibit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender people.
Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina are fighting the law in federal court. More than 100 business executives, President Barack Obama, and countless social justice advocates have denounced HB 2. The UK last week issued travel advice to tourists warning of the dangers of visiting "anti-gay" U.S. states like North Carolina and Mississippi, which also recently passed discriminatory legislation.
And on Monday, with a rally and press conference, the coalition TurnOUT! NC delivered to the state legislature a whopping 187,000 signatures demanding HB 2's repeal.
"It's time the legislature get to work repairing the damage it has caused with the passage of HB 2," said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, which is part of the coalition along with the Human Rights Campaign, the Campaign for Southern Equality, and Equality North Carolina.
"HB 2 was a reckless attempt to malign and marginalize transgender people," Preston said, "and it is bringing immense harm to our state’s people, economy, and reputation. The General Assembly must work as expeditiously as possible to repeal this terrible law as it worked to pass it."
Meanwhile, the North Carolina NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement are planning a rally and "mass sit-in" on Monday afternoon against the bill, which they've dubbed "Hate Bill 2."
"We cannot be silent in the face of this race-based, class-based, homophobic and trans-phobic attack on wage earners, civil rights, and the LGBTQ community," Rev. William Barber, head of the state NAACP and architect of the Moral Monday movement that began three years ago, told Raleigh's News & Observer. "Together with our many allies, we will coordinate a campaign of nonviolent direct action along with other forms of nonviolent protest that will instruct our legislators with respect to the rights of all people."
Local ABC affiliate WTVD reports that four Democratic state lawmakers filed a bill (pdf) Monday morning to fully repeal the controversial law—though they acknowledge that with a Republican majority, repeal is a long shot during this session.
LGBTQ advocates and allies are hoping that the economic backlash will be enough to overcome ideological fervor.
"Over the last month, business leaders, entertainers, advocates and everyday North Carolinians have mobilized and called for the repeal of HB 2," said Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro—who was sworn in as a member of the North Carolina House on Sunday night.
Legislative leaders and Gov. Pat McCrory "can no longer ignore the havoc the bill has wreaked on the state," Sgro said. "The only way to restore North Carolina's reputation is to repeal all of HB 2 and pass comprehensive nondiscrimination protections that protect all North Carolinians."