The recent decision by North Carolina lawmakers to repeal House Bill 2 — the state’s so-called “bathroom bill” — comes just weeks before the NCAA is set to announce its tournament and championship sites for 2019 through 2022 on April 18.
The question is whether it will have the desired result.
HB 2 was the controversial state law that required transgender individuals to use public restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificates. The law also prevented local governments from setting and implementing anti-discrimination and employment policies against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
As a result of the legislation, the NCAA and other sports organizations boycotted the state for championships and tournaments. North Carolina lost at least 17 NCAA and ACC events for the current academic year because of the law.
HB2’s replacement, HB 142, “prevents local governments from passing certain nondiscrimination ordinances until 2020,” according to Charlotte’s News & Observer. “Furthermore, it says that only state government can set policies for transgender access to public bathrooms and locker rooms — and there’s now no state guidance on the issue.”
That’s not good enough, say LGBT groups and other opponents of what they call a compromise repeal. North Carolina’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and several LGBTQ advocacy groups such as Human Rights Campaign, Equality North Carolina and the National Center for Transgender Equality sent a letter to NCAA officials urging them to keep the sports ban in place.
“We call on the NCAA to oppose this shameful HB2.0 bill in North Carolina, and not to reward lawmakers who have passed this so-called ‘deal,’ which is an affront to the values we all hold,” the letter read. “This bill is anti-worker, anti-access to the courts and anti-LGBTQ. It violates all basic principles of diversity, inclusion and basic civil rights.”
“We have worked very hard to accommodate North Carolina's decision-making process,” NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a press conference following the repeal. “Normally we would have started making decisions about site locations … months ago.”
He added that while North Carolina “in many ways is synonymous with college sports” and “great hosts,” “now the question is: Does this new bill change the landscape sufficiently that the board’s comfortable in returning to North Carolina?”
For the record, North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper admits, despite signing it, that HB 142 “is not a perfect deal or my preferred solution.”
He said it “stops short of many things we need to do as a state. In a perfect world, we would have repealed HB2 … and added full statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians.”
NCAA's board met and begrudgingly voted to accept bids from North Carolina, with some caveats. While the new law meets the minimal NCAA requirements, the board remains concerned that some may perceive North Carolina’s moratorium against affording opportunities for communities to extend basic civil rights as a signal that discriminatory behavior is permitted and acceptable, which is inconsistent with the NCAA Bylaws.According to a press release from the NCAA:
...we recognize the quality championships hosted by the people of North Carolina in years before HB2. And this new law restores the state to that legal landscape: a landscape similar to other jurisdictions presently hosting NCAA championships.
We are actively determining site selections, and this new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment. If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time.
We have been assured by the state that this new law allows the NCAA to enact its inclusive policies by contract with communities, universities, arenas, hotels, and other service providers that are doing business with us, our students, other participants, and fans. Further, outside of bathroom facilities, the new law allows our campuses to maintain their own policies against discrimination, including protecting LGBTQ rights, and allows cities’ existing nondiscrimination ordinances, including LBGTQ protections, to remain effective.
In the end, a majority on the NCAA Board of Governors reluctantly voted to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina by our committees that are presently meeting. The NCAA championships previously awarded to North Carolina for 2017-18 will remain in the state. The board, however, directs that any site awarded a championship event in North Carolina or elsewhere be required to submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination.
Meanwhile, legislation similar to HB2 looms in Texas.