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A Former Student Helped Change This N.C. Lawmaker's Mind on HB 2

A Former Student Helped Change This N.C. Lawmaker's Mind on HB 2

N.C. State Rep. Larry Bell
N.C. State Rep. Larry Bell

State Rep. Larry Bell says a phone call from a former student opened his eyes and made him regret his vote for House Bill 2.

A North Carolina state representative and former school superintendent who voted for the anti-LGBT House Bill 2 now says he wants it repealed -- and he attributes his change of heart to a call from a former student.

After the bill's passage, Larry Bell, a Democrat, received a call from a man who'd been one of his brightest students, the politician told NPR's Morning Edition in an interview that aired today. "He was telling me that he was a part of the LGBT community," Bell said. "That kind of opened my eyes that people were looking at us and thinking we were hatemongers or something like that because we voted for that bill."

The bill prevents cities and counties from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination ordinances, and it bars transgender people from using the restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities that comport with their gender identity, if those facilities are in government buildings, including public schools. It also bars workers from suing in state courts for discrimination. When the bill was rushed through in a special session March 23, in response to an ordinance passed in Charlotte in February, Bell had time only to read portions of it, he told Morning Edition. Now he's sorry he voted for it.

"Discrimination is not in my blood, and I just feel like that's the way a lot of people feel," he said.

With the widespread denunciation of the law, which has included the cancellation of expansion plans by some major corporations, it may well come up for repeal, Bell said.

"I think with the outcry, that it's a possibility," he said. "I think a lot of people, since they were rushed into it, would probably reconsider and probably say we don't need the bill at all. I don't think we needed it at all."

Another House Democrat, Billy Richardson, this week apologized for his vote in favor of HB 2 and also called for its repeal.

Listen to Bell's interview below.

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