Asheville's City Hall. Photo: Abe Ezekowitz via WikiMedia. CC: 3.0

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A May 13 town hall meeting in Asheville led constituents to criticize two legislators’ votes to pass HB 142, the “repeal” of HB 2 that left much of the anti-LGBTQ law in place. Rep. John Ager and Sen. Terry Van Duyn defended their votes, though both expressed dissatisfaction with the legislation and hopes that future progress will be made.

Rep. Ager said his vote was necessary, but admitted that the repeal was not sufficient. The bill’s passage was “difficult” but “pragmatic,” according to the Citizen-Times.

“I don’t feel like 142 had any friends,” Ager said. “It was woefully short of what your community needs.”

Sen. Van Duyn claimed that HB 142 made some progress for LGBTQ North Carolinians. She says that the new legislation is decidedly better than its predecessor.

“I am not proud of this vote, but I also don’t apologize for this vote because HB2 was hurting North Carolina in a way that was not fair to our people,” Van Duyn told citizens at the event. “I looked at [it] being an improvement for the LGBTQ community, not the improvement they deserve. Had it hurt the community I would not have taken that vote.”

Yet there are those who believe that HB 142 has hurt the community, despite what Sen. Van Duyn believes. High Point business owner Keri Wetzel wrote that the economic consequences of legal discrimination will continue. Activists say that the LGBTQ community is still very much at risk.

“HB 142 is just a repackaged HB 2 under a different name,” Joaquin Carcaño, one plaintiff of the HB 2 lawsuit Carcaño v. McCrory, told Democracy Now! “it’s been replaced, but we still don’t have any safety, we still don’t have any protections, and we’re still actively restricted from navigating our daily lives.”

The legislators who promised HB 2 repeal and voted for HB 142 “sold out” their LGBTQ and ally supporters, Carcaño believes.

“We all really threw our support behind these legislators that said that they would protect us going forward, that they would fight for a complete repeal of HB 2,” he said. “Our lives, our rights have been compromised. And we’ve been sold out.”

Rep. Ager and Sen. Van Duyn are not the only legislators facing criticism for their treatment of the LGBTQ community — but they are among the few facing criticism in town halls. North Carolina’s Congresspeople, especially Republicans, have been rather unavailable to citizens.

The Charlotte Observer reported in late March that U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) had not held an in-person town hall yet in 2017. Tillis’ most recent town hall was a teleconference on March 7, and the senator has not publicized plans for any future town halls.

In comparison, U.S. House Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.) has held seven town halls this year, according to LegiStorm. Rep. Adams has another planned for June 30.