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N.C. Dems angry over failed bathroom bill repeal: 'It looks like we sanction discrimination'

"I don't know if you think the public is stupid or we're stupid," a Democratic lawmaker said of the GOP effort to repeal HB2.

By Doug G. Ware
N.C. Dems angry over failed bathroom bill repeal: 'It looks like we sanction discrimination'
The North Carolina General Assembly met for a special session Wednesday to consider repealing controversial House Bill 2, which imposed limits on which public restrooms transgender individuals can use. Despite an agreement to repeal the law, the Senate didn't have sufficient support for it and the House adjourned without voting. File Photo by North Carolina Legislature/Facebook

RALEIGH, N.C., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Even though a special legislative session was called for the purpose of pulling North Carolina's controversial "bathroom bill" off the books, lawmakers instead fought all day Wednesday and failed to complete the deal.

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory called for the special session on Monday after a surprise move by the Charlotte City Council to repeal a city ordinance that outlawed gender identity-based discrimination in "public accommodations" -- a law that enabled transgender individuals freedom to use the public restroom for the gender they identify with.

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That Charlotte ordinance was the reason North Carolina Republicans passed House Bill 2 in March, a statewide counter-strike to block the city's law and force everyone to use restrooms of their birth gender.

RELATED Monday: N.C. to repeal controversial transgender bathroom law

With the Charlotte law dead, the outgoing governor asked lawmakers to reconvene and get rid of HB2. Instead, lawmakers didn't accomplish a thing Wednesday -- as the Senate rejected a repeal and the House adjourned without even voting.

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The main obstacle was a provision in the legislation added by Republicans that put a six-month ban on city ordinances like the one Charlotte passed. Party members referred to it as a "cooling off period."

In other words, Republicans were willing to scrap HB2, but wanted assurances that Charlotte won't simply revive its ordinance.

With the new language in the bill, though, there wasn't enough support to pass it. The Senate bill was defeated by a vote of 16-32.

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Democrats blasted Republican lawmakers for effectively changing the rules in the middle of the game -- and accused them of trying to short-circuit the session the minute it started on Wednesday.

"I'm sorry, this was not the deal. The deal was Charlotte repeals fully and we repeal fully," state Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Charlotte, said. "Charlotte was told over and over again, Charlotte, if you take the first step you will be met halfway. Charlotte did that and we're being shoved away one more time."

It now appears there may be no repeal of the bathroom bill, which has so far cost the state revenue as numerous businesses and organizations have pulled out of North Carolina in protest.

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"It's HB2.2; it doubles down on discrimination," Democratic Rep. Chris Sgro said. "It doesn't help us get the NCAA back, it doesn't help us get the NBA back or Paypal. It means North Carolina remains deeply closed for business."

"This was a missed opportunity," Rep. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, said Wednesday. "It looks like we're sanctioning discrimination."

The Charlotte City Council, fearing Republicans were about to renege on the deal, called for members of the public to call legislators and demand HB2 be junked. The council met Wednesday morning to re-abolish its ordinance due to GOP worries that its Monday vote didn't completely erase the law.

GOP state Sen. Buck Newton said the six-month ban was intended to prevent local ordinances that the "lunatic left of the city of Charlotte and other places want to enact."

"I have no faith in the city of Charlotte, no faith that anybody on the other side ... will act honorably and in good faith to find a way forward," he added.

Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper has staunchly opposed the law and galvanized members of his party to resolve the headaches that have come with it.

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GOP Senate leader Phil Berger accused Cooper of pressuring Democrats to vote against the repeal "to force radical social engineering and shared bathrooms across North Carolina, at the expense of our state's families, our reputation and our economy."

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Democrats accused Republicans of trying to game the system and get what they want without conceding anything.

"I don't know if you think the public is stupid or we're stupid," Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant said, calling the GOP effort "smoke and mirrors."

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