Washington Post columnist Steven Petrow led the discussion and opened by asking about House Bill 2’s replacement, House Bill 142, saying many felt betrayed by Gov. Roy Cooper’s decision to sign it.
“We know that he won his office on the backs of this community, and many in this community feel like he sold us out,” Petrow said.
Former mayor of Chapel Hill Mark Kleinschmidt said he and the rest of the LGBTQ community invested a lot in Cooper’s campaign and expect him to represent them.
“We went out and campaigned our asses off to make sure that he took the mansion,” Kleinschmidt said. “It was about more than just replacing Pat McCrory with a Democrat. It was about replacing him with someone who understands our issue.”
Durham City Councilperson Jillian Johnson said Cooper’s decision wasn’t one she agreed with, but didn’t feel like the blame needed to rest solely on his shoulders.
“I’m disappointed in the governor, I’ve been disappointed in him before and I’ll be disappointed in him again,” she said. “But there is a Republican supermajority in the General Assembly. If they wanted to get rid of HB2, all they had to do was get their people together.”
House Bill 142, called a compromise bill by many of the politicians who signed it, no longer forces people to use the bathroom that aligns with the sex listed on their birth certificate, but Johnson said that isn’t enough.
“It doesn’t protect people using the bathroom,” she said. “It doesn’t prohibit people from using the bathroom that doesn’t align with their biological sex, but they don’t have any protections for doing what they want.”
Carrboro Mayor Lydia Lavelle agreed with Johnson but said the law makes a small step in the right direction.
“Even though the non-discrimination part is still in effect, to have that horrific part of the bill that focused on biological sex where people would be looking around the bathroom (removed), was, to me, a good thing,” she said.
Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, said she found the bill to be a step in the right direction and feels good about the growing opposition to House Bill 142.
“We are coming out in enormous numbers,” she said. “Precincts that haven’t been organized in over 40 years are coming out in huge numbers.”
Butler said the kind of change that she wants to see could take some time, but encouraged everyone in the audience to run for office, as well as to turn out and vote in their local elections.
Though many members of the panel expressed concern and anger over the new law, Charlotte City Council member LaWana Mayfield told the audience she believed the LGBTQ community has a chance to push back.
“Ultimately we need you here in the fight and not away from it,” she said. “We need to show that there is strength in numbers. There’s a lot we can do, and it’s going to require work from all of us.”