After two long and dysfunctional days inside the legislature, the HB 2 debacle is finally over. Now we're left with HB 142, a bill that's far from the clean repeal Cooper promised. The new bill has incensed activists and advocacy groups that have been fighting for HB 2's repeal since the day it passed last March. On Twitter a few days ago, the influential Human Rights Campaign—which former governor Pat McCrory still believes is more powerful than the NRA
—vowed to hold the lawmakers who green-lighted the legislation accountable.
While many progressives and activists are angry, some Democrats argue that Governor Cooper had little choice: with the NCAA’s deadline looming, HB 142 was the best deal he could get, and any progress was better than none
. This afternoon, we spoke with state Representative Duane Hall, a reliably progressive Democrat whose district covers Raleigh and Cary, but who voted for HB 142 yesterday. He told us that it was the “the hardest decision I’ve ever made taking a vote.”
Below is a transcript of our conversation, edited for clarity.
INDY: Why did you support the bill, and what are you hearing from your constituents?
I’ve had a few people upset with it. The majority of my constituents think that we are in a better position today than we were yesterday. There are some that are upset that we weren’t able to get more. Yesterday was definitely the hardest decision I’ve ever made taking a vote. The main concern I had yesterday was I didn’t want the LGBT community to continue to suffer, I didn’t want them to still face this, and that’s why the vote I took yesterday was really a vote of conscience for me. I wanted more, I argued for more, but I honestly feel this gives us more than we had yesterday. The main reason I felt it was right to vote yes, the main reason is it got rid of the ridiculous birth-certificate requirement. And today a transgender person can again go into the bathroom that corresponds with their identity. I do understand why they’re upset. Obviously, it prevents municipalities from extending further protections. I completely get that. That’s the part that gave me the most anguish, that I was the most upset about. But combined with the fact that a transgender person doesn’t have to go through the birth certificate BS—and it did say that municipalities that had already extended further protections, those were reinstated, those are back in place, and there are sixteen cities in North Carolina right now that did have extra protections that are now reinstated because we passed that yesterday. And Raleigh, which I represent, was one of those cities.
Some LGBTQ advocates have said they weren't included at the negotiating table, and, had they been, they would have voiced their opposition. Have you heard from any of these groups? What's your response to them?
I think they should have been at the negotiating table. I wasn’t personally at the table either. I wasn’t there just like they weren’t there. Whenever I was asked, I advocated for more. I wanted an absolute clean repeal. It upsets me that they’re upset. I so hate that they feel let down. It was a vote of conscience for me. I felt a transgender person being able to use the bathroom that corresponds with their identity was at least a step in the right direction, I did feel that it was better than it was yesterday. There were other concerns. This also extended the period of time before people in North Carolina can sue for discrimination in state court. And that’s a big deal. Federal court is hard to get into. Poor people cannot afford it. It's a longer wait.
Another thing that greatly impacts poor people is it reinstated raising the minimum wage [for employees of government contractors; local governments can seek to pass higher minimum wages after December 1, 2020]. Those aren’t small things; those are to me big things that matter, especially to poor people. and I could not in good conscience say that reinstating those things didn’t put us in a better position than we were yesterday.
Do you plan on reaching out to groups that feel betrayed?
Certainly. I’m going to do more than reach out. I understand why they’re upset and regardless will continue to do everything I possibly can to help, to get more than we have now. I’m upset it doesn’t allow more municipalities to extend further rights; it’s terrible discrimination. The bottom line to me is I just can’t understand how people could argue this is not a better position than we were in yesterday as tough as it was. This was definitely the toughest vote I’ve ever had. This one was extremely tough for me.