One Republican lawmaker in North Carolina is scrambling to rally his colleagues to repeal the law before it's too late — and North Carolina potentially loses NCAA business forever.
After speaking to state Rep. Chuck McGrady (R) in February about his repeal efforts, we checked back with him on Friday. Short answer: The deadline for the NCAA's decision is imminent, and North Carolina's GOP-controlled legislature and its Democratic governor are nowhere closer to a repeal. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
THE FIX: Now that March Madness is actually here, is there a urgency in the state to repeal the bathroom bill so it doesn't miss out on another tournament?
MCGRADY: That's really hard to judge. The NCAA is meeting just south of here — some of the tournament is in Greenville, S.C. — that's where UNC and Duke are both playing.
Some of my colleagues don't believe damages are occurring. If you live in a small, rural county in some part of North Carolina, you probably don't see them. If, on the other hand, you're in Greensboro this weekend you're going: “This thing is real. We always have a basketball tournament here.”
How do you feel watching the tournament be played across state lines?
I think the economy boycott is outrageous and unfair, but is it a fact of life that we have to deal with? Yes. I mean, it is damaging, and whether we agree with the action taken or not, I think legislators are going to have to try to address it.
And it's now or never to address it, right?
Well, we always try to do things before it's too late. Fixing the issue after the fact is still incurring the damages and doesn't make a lot of sense. But we have basically another week, maybe, if we're going to take action. The next round of NCAA tournaments will be announced in early April, and obviously that doesn't all get done in one day, and so if we're going to take action, we need to take it very soon.
Since we last talked, your repeal effort has kind of languished.
At this point we're hung up on something I view is frankly a rather silly thing to get hung up on, given we have agreed on the harder issue here. So, we'll see. Give it another weekend. Certainly after another week or so, I'm going to go off and spend my time doing other things.
There is just no way to get the votes for a straight repeal. The only bipartisan bill that would address that problem is the bill I filed, HB 186. Obviously you need a repeal, but you also need a preemption so that local governments don't wade back into the bathroom issue. Meaning we don't need to repeal and then have another city do exactly what Charlotte did, otherwise we're right back into that issue.
We also have local governments that have adopted nondiscrimination ordinances, and that surprisingly has been the main hang up. My bill provides a pathway for local governments to expand protected classes, but it has a check on the power of city councils — it puts a referendum on there, and that's been the issue that the governor has taken a stand on. And as long as the governor has taken the stand he has, I can't get the Democratic votes.
And are Republicans willing to hold up their end of the bargain to repeal the bill?
I've always said I need to get roughly 30 Republican votes, and, to the best of my knowledge, I've got the votes. There's not been a lot of movement over the past two weeks.
I would suggest to them that it's a mistake. But they ought to be able to figure that out by themselves.
The economic boycott is wrong, but that doesn't mean it isn't real. And so why, as a legislature, would you go down that road in the same way we have?
I just don't see what the problem is that is really being solved by a bathroom ordinance. People have been able to figure out which bathrooms to go to for a pretty good long time. For me, it's something the government need not get into.