RALEIGH – Lawmakers convened Monday to begin the 2016 legislative session and were greeted by thousands of both supporters and opponents of the State’s controversial Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, or House Bill 2.
NAACP of North Carolina, opponent of the law mandating use of bathrooms according to biological sex in government facilities, offered sympathizers “Direct Action Training” on Monday morning before engaging in a protest on State Capitol grounds. In video captured Monday night as lawmakers adjourned, protesters blocked the front exit.
While leaders of the Republican majority have stated their focus for the short session will be budget adjustments and further tax reform, Democrat lawmakers wasted no time in filing House Bill 946 Monday morning, a bill that repeals H.B.2. in its entirety.
“It is a simple bill, it’s a half page long. It is a full repeal of H.B.2,” said Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake).
In a press conference previewing the legislative priorities of the Senate majority last week, Senate leader Phil Berger said the Senate Republicans had no interest in making any changes to the law that allow for men in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms.
RALEIGH – Opponents of H.B.2 were not alone in Raleigh on Monday, though, as supporters of the bill inundated the state legislative complex with signs and fold-out chairs. As lawmakers began arriving to their offices at the General Assembly, hundreds of H.B.2 supporters greeted them with praise and encouragement.
As the day wore on, those protesting the law underwent further activism training and participated in a rally outside of the legislature, before initiating a mass sit-in at the General Assembly around 5:00PM, chanting “Forward together – Not one step back” as they marched towards the legislature doors.
North Carolina has received international attention due to the controversial law passed in March, drawing opposition from British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama alike, and entertainers and businesses have pulled out of the state in protest of what opponents deem “mandated discrimination” against the LGBT community.
When asked if the public and corporate backlash would have any effect on a forthcoming budget proposal, Governor McCrory replied, flatly, “No.”
As both the House and Senate called their respective Monday evening sessions to order, an otherwise perfunctory meeting, opponents of H.B.2 filled the public galleries lining the chambers.
The House chamber handled routine business in opening the year’s legislative session, but also welcomed it’s newest member, Rep. Chris Sgro (D-Greensboro).
“I have big shoes to fill,” Sgro said after receiveing a welcoming applause from the chamber. Sgro replaces the late Rep. Ralph Johnson (D – Greensboro).
It was also announced in the House chamber that Governor McCrory’s budget proposal will be presented to lawmakers on April 27 at 9:00AM in a presentation by state budget director Andrew Heath.
No votes were held during the session, but just when Speaker Tim Moore (R – Kings Mountain) moved to adjourn after 30 minutes of housekeeping and reconvene on Tuesday morning, H.B.2 protestors leapt to their feet to shout down the departing lawmakers.
“Our House! You will do no business but the people’s business!”, protestors yelled as they were ushered out of the chamber by police and sergeants-at-arms.
Chants of “Justice!” and “You have blood on your hands!” rang through the halls as the protestors continued to make their voices heard, watched closely by State Capitol Police.
Legislative business will continue on Tuesday, with votes scheduled for later in the week.