Stay vigilant, boycott, and get revenge at the ballot box. That was the message in North Carolina on Thursday after lawmakers went back on their word and refused to repeal the state's anti-LGBTQ ordinance HB2.
Putting a fine point on the state GOP's legislative coup, the North Carolina House adjourned Wednesday's special session without a vote on the repeal and the state Senate voted down a compromise version of the controversial law.
"We should not be surprised at the failure to repeal #HB2," Durham-based community organizer Jillian Johnson wrote late Wednesday at the conclusion of the legislative session. "The GOP is going to keep changing the rules until we stop playing their game."
"We have, in this state, an attempt by a few people who are deeply unpopular in the polls to run a modern-day southern coup d'etat, and it's wrong and we are calling on the nation to join us."
—Rev. William Barber II, NC NAACP
Republican lawmakers, who vowed to repeal HB2 in full after the city of Charlotte rescinded key portions of its non-discrimination ordinance earlier this week, backtracked on that promise during the special session Wednesday, arguing that the city had not gone far enough. Caving to the GOP, Charlotte held a second session Wednesday to repeal the entire ordinance, further weakening protections for the state's LGBTQ community, to no avail.
Governor-elect Roy Cooper told a press conference Wednesday night that Republican leaders "broke the deal" to fully repeal HB2, after the Senate's top Republican, Sen. Phil Berger, put forth a bill that "coupled HB2's repeal with a months-long moratorium on city ordinances like the one Charlotte passed and repealed," as the Charlotte Observer reported. The law, as it stands, requires transgender people to use public facilities that correspond to their biological sex, rather than their gender identity, and prohibits municipalities from creating non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people at the local level.
"What [Republicans] were trying to do was tack on something that wouldn't work," Cooper said. "They didn't have the guts to put the [repeal] bill out on the floor by itself."
But for many observers, and North Carolina citizens, the Republicans' actions amounted to an attack on the rights of transgender and other LGBTQ people, as well as an overt rejection of democracy.
"The North Carolina General Assembly is a national disgrace," said National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) executive director Mara Keisling. The legislature's actions, Keisling continued, "have proven that the people of North Carolina—particularly transgender North Carolinians—cannot have any faith in their shameless lawmakers."
"Yesterday was another lesson in staying vigilant, distrusting those in power, and holding on to our collective vision for justice rather than relegating our survival to the power brokers in government who care little about our interests," ACLU attorney and trans advocate Chase Strangio wrote Thursday.
"From the start of the special session at 10am on Wednesday morning, it was clear that the North Carolina GOP was playing games," he continued. "Selectively concerned with rules, process and democracy, the party appears to follow one basic principle which is to maintain its own power and repress the power and diminish the survival opportunities of the state's most vulnerable and targeted communities."
Indeed, North Carolinians will not take this latest assault laying down. While HB2 still faces a federal court challenge by the ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal, calls for the economic boycott of North Carolina that bloomed in the wake of the law's passage in March have grown louder.
Rev. William Barber, president of the state chapter of the NAACP, which has led the fight against the Republican-led General Assembly's aggressive agenda for years, said during a Thursday press conference that his organization will petition the national NAACP to launch a national boycott of the state.
"The hope for North Carolina is that next year, when the courts have demanded that the NC General Assembly fairly redraw the districts and hold an additional election, the people will have the opportunity to judge these legislators at the ballot box."
"What this legislature is doing is an antithesis to the values of our Constitution and our moral values and we...cannot let this pass on our watch and we cannot let the nation just think its about HB2," Barber said. "We have, in this state, an attempt by a few people who are deeply unpopular in the polls to run a modern-day southern coup d'etat, and it's wrong and we are calling on the nation to join us."
"We're gonna fight them in the courts, we're gonna fight them in the streets and now we are gonna...fight them at the cash register," he continued. "If we don't stop them here, it has potential to spread across the nation as...extremist lawmakers run roughshod over the constitution."
"We cannot stand for that now, and we will not stand for it tomorrow, because our forbearers didn't stand for it yesterday," he concluded.
Pointing to the multi-front fight to come, the NC NAACP added in a press statement: "The hope for North Carolina is that next year, when the courts have demanded that the NC General Assembly fairly redraw the districts and hold an additional election, the people will have the opportunity to judge these legislators at the ballot box."
"Republicans in the General Assembly will answer to voters in 2017," vowed Gerrick Brenner, executive director of Progress NC Action.