When a compromise angers both sides of a debate, political wisdom says it’s likely the best result. Another saying goes, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will anger both sides equally.
The N.C. General Assembly’s compromise on the bathroom bill is probably the best that this governing body could cobble together in a highly partisan political climate. The passage of this compromise came with an impending deadline from the NCAA that could have precluded major sports events from being held in this state for years to come. It was uncertain in the early hours after passage whether the compromise would meet NCAA muster, or whether businesses and artists will end their respective boycotts.
One legislator called this compromise a punt. Gov. Roy Cooper called it a step in the fight against discrimination.
While this bill reflects the art of the possible, to paraphrase President Eisenhower, it does not reflect the best that North Carolina represents. House Bill 2 produced immediate protest and reaction last year. The legislature enacted the bill based on fear of the unknown. Many businesses, artists and entertainers saw the unfairness in a law that singled out a vulnerable minority for restrictions and different treatment.
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The compromise the legislature passed this week is not a full repudiation of those unfair policies. The new law ensures that the state legislature — not school officials or local government — are in charge of public restroom policies, according to news reports. Given the legislature’s recent stewardship of those facilities, it’s no wonder that this part of the compromise gives those in the LGBT community no comfort. In a more blatant blow to fairness, the law also puts a moratorium, until 2020, on local governments’ ability to enact anti-discrimination ordinances regarding public accommodations.
We applaud the governor and lawmakers for wrestling with this issue and at least working on a compromise. We prefer that the General Assembly had repealed this ill-conceived and unfair law outright. The compromise tells those in the LGBT community that, yes, they are entitled to the blessings of liberty, but only up to a certain point.
The reaction that House Bill 2 provoked signals that history is headed toward greater equality and tolerance for all people. We hope that a future General Assembly session will recognize that arc, and do away with the last remnants of House Bill 2.