Stay vigilant, boycott, and get revenge at the ballot box. That was the message in North Carolina on Thursday after lawmakers went back on their word and refused to repeal the state’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance HB2.

Putting a fine point on the state GOP’s legislative coup, the North Carolina House adjourned Wednesday’s special session without a vote on the repeal and the state Senate voted down a compromise version of the controversial law.

“We should not be surprised at the failure to repeal #HB2,” Durham-based community organizer Jillian Johnson wrote late Wednesday at the conclusion of the legislative session. “The GOP is going to keep changing the rules until we stop playing their game.”

“We have, in this state, an attempt by a few people who are deeply unpopular in the polls to run a modern-day southern coup d’etat, and it’s wrong and we are calling on the nation to join us.”
—Rev. William Barber II, NC NAACP

Republican lawmakers, who vowed to repeal HB2 in full after the city of Charlotte rescinded key portions of its non-discrimination ordinance earlier this week, backtracked on that promise during the special session Wednesday, arguing that the city had not gone far enough. Caving to the GOP, Charlotte held a second session Wednesday to repeal the entire ordinance, further weakening protections for the state’s LGBTQ community, to no avail.

Governor-elect Roy Cooper told a press conference Wednesday night that Republican leaders “broke the deal” to fully repeal HB2, after the Senate’s top Republican, Sen. Phil Berger, put forth a bill that “coupled HB2’s repeal with a months-long moratorium on city ordinances like the one Charlotte passed and repealed,” as the Charlotte Observer reported. The law, as it stands, requires transgender people to use public facilities that correspond to their biological sex, rather than their gender identity, and prohibits municipalities from creating non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people at the local level.

“What [Republicans] were trying to do was tack on something that wouldn’t work,” Cooper said. “They didn’t have the guts to put the [repeal] bill out on the floor by itself.”

But for many observers, and North Carolina citizens, the Republicans’ actions amounted to an attack on the rights of transgender and other LGBTQ people, as well as an overt rejection of democracy.

“The North Carolina General Assembly is a national disgrace,” said National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) executive director Mara Keisling. The legislature’s actions, Keisling continued, “have proven that the people of North Carolina—particularly transgender North Carolinians—cannot have any faith in their shameless lawmakers.”

“Yesterday was another lesson in staying vigilant, distrusting those in power, and holding on to our collective vision for justice rather than relegating our survival to the power brokers in government who care little about our interests,” ACLU attorney and trans advocate Chase Strangio wrote Thursday.