North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) spent Tuesday scrambling to try to undo some of the damage done by the anti-gay law he signed last month.
It didn’t go so well.
The new law — which yanked local discrimination protections for LGBT people and limited employees’ ability to sue over workplace discrimination of all kinds — provoked a national outcry and a growing economic boycott of North Carolina. In response Tuesday, McCrory tried to back away from some of the law’s provisions while still stubbornly defending the man part of the law that targets LGBT citizens.
The difficulty of that two-step dance — and McCrory’s clumsiness in pulling it off — was most obvious in an extended interview with Time Warner News. During the interview, McCrory’s flailing defenses ran the gamut, from pointing out that he didn’t call the special session where the rushed legislation was introduced to claiming that he knew before he signed it that there were things that would have to be fixed in the bill.
“When I signed the bill, I knew there would have to be corrections in this bill. And I had raised some objections, first of all, to some of the things in the bill that we should have waited for long session, or for the short session. And I also informed some people that we had some issues, especially with the state court. My lawyer — my chief legal counsel had expressed concern,” he said.
McCrory was referencing a small provision of the sweeping legislation that removed the ability for private sector employees to sue their employer in state court if they claimed they were discriminated against on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, age, sex or handicap. In an executive order issued on Tuesday, McCrory asked legislators to offer a fix to the bill and again allow employees to sue in state court.
The governor offered a bumbling answer as to why he signed the law when he had qualms about it. He said he felt that blocking a Charlotte ordinance protecting gay and transgender people from discrimination, which was set to go into effect at the beginning of April, was more important. He also noted that he himself did not call the special legislative session because he knew it would produce rushed legislation.
“I was not going to block the state legislative efforts to deal with that immediate issue,” he said. “But I knew it was an imperfect bill, and that’s one reason I didn’t even call them into session because I knew they’d be rushed.”
McCrory told Time Warner News that he is “confident” that the legislature will agree to a change in that provision. A spokesman for the state House speaker said that the legislature will review McCrory’s request.
But the governor said that the fix to workers’ ability to sue will be the end of changes to the law.
“I don’t think HB2 will be reversed,” he said, adding that legislators have received positive feedback from constituents about the law.
The governor has stubbornly defended the law since he signed it despite intense backlash from LGBT rights groups and the business community. In his interview with Time Warner News, he continued to blame misperceptions of the law for the backlash.
When asked whether he was concerned about businesses abandoning plans to expand in the state over the law, McCrory said that some companies “don’t quite understand” the law. He said that the law has been “misinterpreted” by news outlets like the New York Times and Huffington Post.
“It is absolutely amazing that this continues to be a topic, and I frankly think this very powerful interest group will continue to make it a topic because that’s there agenda,” he said, referencing LGBT advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign. At one point in the interview, McCrory said that that since signing the bill, he’s learned that HRC “is one of the most powerful special interest lobbying groups.”
McCrory said that he does not believe its government’s place to direct companies’ employment policies, focusing on the Charlotte ordinance’s provision that allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.
When asked whether he believes that people have been fired for being gay, McCrory said he wasn’t aware of an example. And when Time Warner’s Tim Boyum noted that the North Carolina makes it legal for someone to be fired for being gay, McCrory claimed that the federal government can protect them.
“The federal government does that right now,” he said. “I don’t believe anyone should be discriminated against. But I also don’t believe government ought to be writing employment policy for every company and corporation throughout the state of North Carolina.”
Boyum asked whether classifications like race or gender should be protected, and McCrory again gave a rambling answer about employment policy.
“I’m talking about employment policy. And I have, again, you’re creating a problem that, if you come and give me an example of some businesses that are doing that, which I have not heard from,” he said. “I’ve heard the more liberal media come up and give examples of bathrooms and so forth. But they haven’t also come up with the other thing. I don’t know of any signs in any windows prohibiting this classification.”
Watch the full Time Warner News interview here.