NCAA Gives North Carolina a Deadline to Repeal Anti-LGBT Law or Lose More Events

by | March 27, 2017

By Jim Morrill and Colin Campbell

In its most direct statement yet, the NCAA on Thursday warned North Carolina to repeal House Bill 2 soon or lose championship events through 2022.

"As the state knows, next week our various sports committees will begin making championships site selections for 2018-2022," the NCAA said in a statement. "Once the sites are selected ... those decisions are final." The NCAA plans to announce sites on April 18.

The statement came on HB2's first anniversary. It also came as lawmakers and the governor remain at an impasse over repeal, though legislative leaders said Thursday they're talking about changes in the law.

Last weekend Duke and UNC played their first-round NCAA tournament games in Greenville, S.C., after the games were moved from Greensboro. NCAA officials moved events "because of the cumulative impact HB2 had on local communities' ability to assure a safe, healthy, discrimination free atmosphere," the organization said Thursday.

"Absent any change in the law, our position remains the same regarding hosting current or future events in the state."

The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte because of the law. The Atlantic Coast Conference also moved events out of state, including its football championship that had been scheduled for Charlotte.

In a statement Thursday, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper again called for repeal.

"I have offered numerous compromises and remain open to any deal that will bring jobs and sports back to North Carolina and begin to repair our reputation," he said. "Legislative Republicans have been all too happy to use their super-majorities to pass damaging partisan laws. It's time for them to step up, meet halfway, and repeal HB 2."

Asked about the legislature's timeline for HB2 changes, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, said the issue was the subject of lengthy GOP caucus meetings Wednesday and Thursday.

"We're taking whatever time is necessary," he said. "We're not going to move forward until a majority of the caucus is prepared to do something."

Moore said he's been talking with business leaders and others, and that "if I didn't have pretty good assurances" the potential HB2 changes would end boycotts, "I wouldn't be wasting my time."

"I think a lot of companies and other entities that initially signed onto these bans ... are having a little bit of buyer's remorse and are themselves looking for a way to get out of this mess," he added.

Moore said legislative leaders won't be "backing off of the privacy issues" at the center of HB2.

Moore denied that "religious freedom" legislation would be part of the new bill but that a "conscience protection provision" was being considered. He said the provision would allow residents to sue the state "if they feel the government has done something that would intervene" with constitutional rights.

Sarah Gillooly, lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said the legislation Moore described could enable discrimination against the LGBT community and other groups on religious grounds. Religious freedom "doesn't give us the right to harm others," she said.

HB2 was put in place in response to a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. The ordinance, which was repealed in December as part of a failed repeal deal, drew opposition from conservatives who said it would allow men to enter women's bathrooms.

"If there's any entity out there that's going to tell North Carolina that we have to let men in women's showers, that's just too bad, we're not going to change that," Moore said.

Sen. Joel Ford, a Charlotte Democrat, introduced his own bill this week that would repeal HB2 and enact a moratorium on any new local ordinances that would expire 30 days after the legislative session. He said he worries about legislative Republicans discussing changes alone.

"It's a scary thought to think they are negotiating among themselves and that's without Democrats," said Ford.

Earlier Thursday, representatives from Equality NC, the Human Rights Campaign and other groups dismissed any compromises and demanded a straight repeal of HB2.

"We don't need compromises that double down on discrimination," said Matt Hirschy, a spokesman for Equality NC.

JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president of the national Human Rights Campaign, said, "The NCAA has put North Carolina on notice."

"North Carolina lawmakers have run out of time for their reckless political gamesmanship, and they must immediately vote for full and complete repeal of HB2," she said.

(c)2017 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)