Proposed group would try to bridge divide over HB2

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Some Republicans and Democrats are coming together to try to bridge the divide over the controversial House Bill 2.

Former State Budget Director Art Pope, a Republican, and former Lt. Governor Dennis Wicker, a Democrat, are organizing a working group of people representing various sides of the HB2 debate.

The divide is great however as some believe people should be able to choose which public bathroom to use while others believe people should only go to the restroom that corresponds with their biology. Also, some agree with parts of HB2 and not others, like the inability to sue for discrimination in North Carolina courts and the inability of towns to set their own minimum wages.

“The notion is not necessarily to get everybody to agree on everything. That seems impossible,” said John Hood, who is the president of the Pope Foundation and chairman of the John Locke Foundation. “But instead to identify areas where there might be some accommodation or mixture of views that we could proceed with.”

Guilford County Democrat Chris Sgro, the only openly gay member of the General Assembly and executive director of Equality North Carolina, says any serious discussion should result in fully inclusive non-discrimination protections for the LGBT community.

“I think that dialogue is always good as long as that’s the intent and as long as the right people are in the room,” Rep. Sgro said.

Candis Cox, a transgender woman, said that it’s imperative that the group has members of the transgender and LGBT community.

“I think it’s a good idea when you’re talking about something that is a very sensitive topic, such as transgender people, to sit down with the opposition to educate them on who transgender people are,” Cox said.

Republican State Sen. Ralph Hise says lawmakers are open to participating in the discussion but he does not see a need to make any changes to HB2.

“This is not a piece of legislation where I’m looking for a middle ground to come forward,” Sen. Hise said. “This is something that we’re looking at to protect the citizens of the state of North Carolina.”

Sen. Hise said from what’s he has heard about the potential makeup of the group, he doesn’t see the chance for a middle ground. “This is kind of bringing people in with very entrenched points of view and seeing if there is a middle ground there,” he said.

Rep. Sgro said he expects what comes out of the discussion is that House Bill 2 is unnecessary, discriminatory and needs to be repealed in full.

Organizers hope to have about 16 people, including former Republican Gov. Jim Martin, to be part of a group that would start meeting sometime in June.

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