The North Carolina lawmaker who drove the final effort to successfully repeal the state’s artificially demonized House Bill 2 (HB2) admitted this week that her motivation was “the way the media played it up” and to “get the rest of the nation off our back.”
State Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican who represents Mt. Airy — the town that served as the model for “Mayberry” in “The Andy Griffith Show” — introduced and pushed for passage of House Bill 142, which erased the language of HB2 from North Carolina’s statutes. The now-banished law was known as the “transgender bathroom” bill that required individuals to use public restrooms and changing facilities according to their sex identities on their birth certificates.
In an interview with the Wilkes Journal-Patriot, which covers part of her district in rural northwestern North Carolina, Stevens said the merits of HB2 were irrelevant in light of attacks from the national Left, who were emboldened by liberal news coverage and alliances with major corporate CEOs, sports organizations, and Hollywood celebrities and performers.
“She said HB 2 ‘was not a bad bill,’” the newspaper reported, “‘but it had given us (North Carolina) a bad image because of the way the media played it up.’ HB 2 became a stain on the state that needed to be removed, said Stevens.”
“It was common sense to get us back to where we were before,” Stevens told the Journal-Patriot. “It was truly a re-set of the dial to get the rest of the nation off our back.”
Organizations that supported HB2 in North Carolina bristled at throwing out what they saw as sound law, that protected the privacy and provided legal protections for women and children when they are in restrooms and locker rooms.
“It’s most disconcerting when legislation is done according to ‘image,’” said Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina. “Whatever happened to truth? Whatever happened to conviction?
“If lawmakers simply float with the currents, if they’re not firmly guided by the highest of principles and ideals, then they become nothing more than an echo, not a voice.”
Tar Heel lawmakers who supported Stevens’s bill felt a heightened sense of urgency to rid themselves of HB2 because the NCAA threatened them with a deadline of last week to repeal, or else face losing college sports tournaments for the next five or six years.
“By meeting the demands of the NCAA and all the other business interests and sports organizations who have bullied North Carolina, our leaders have demonstrated that whoever bullies the most and the loudest wins,” said the NC Values Coalition in an analysis issued on Wednesday. “This tactic will likely be used again, since it works.”
During debate of House Bill 142 last week, several legislators — most which represent rural districts — said calls and emails to their offices overwhelmingly opposed repeal of HB2.
“Perhaps it would be appropriate if we would commemorate the passage of this bill by inviting the governor to come down to the building today and lowering those two flags [the U.S. and North Carolina flags outside the Legislative Building] and putting up in their place a flag of a certain intercollegiate athletic association and a white flag,” said Rep. Bert Jones, R-Rockingham.
The perception — both in the Tar Heel State and nationally — that HB2 was a bad law, almost universally hated, was false. Groups of pastors and civil rights leaders defended the bill. Concerned Women for America praised the fact that an attempted repeal in December failed. And several widely-read online conservative publications said the law was sound and sensible.