N.C. decides to roll back part of its bathroom bill
North Carolina RALEIGH, N.C. — rolled back its “bathroom bill” Thursday in a bid to end the yearlong backlash over transgender rights that has cost the state dearly in business projects, conventions and basketball tournaments.
The compromise plan, announced Wednesday night by the Democratic governor and leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, was worked out under mounting pressure from the NCAA, which threatened to take away more sporting events from the basketball-obsessed state as long as the law, also known as House Bill 2, remained on the books.
The new measure cleared the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in a matter of hours.
Among other things, it repeals the best-known section of HB2: a requirement that transgender people use the public restrooms that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate.
“For over a year now, House Bill 2 has been a dark cloud hanging over our great state,” the governor said in announcing the signing. “It has stained our reputation, it has discriminated against our people, and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and gay rights activists complained that the new law still denies gay and transgender people certain protections from discrimination, and they demanded nothing less than full repeal.
As a result, it was unclear whether the retreat from HB2 would stop the boycotts or satisfy the NCAA.
Republican Rep. Scott Stone, who lives in Charlotte, urged his colleagues to vote for the new bill. It passed the House 70-48.
“We are impeding the growth in our revenues, in our abilities to do more things for tourism, for teacher pay ... while we have this stigma hanging over us,” Stone said. “The time has come for us to get out from under the national spotlight for negative things.”
Conservatives, meanwhile, staunchly defended HB2 and condemned the new measure.
“This bill is at best a punt. At worst it is a betrayal of principle,” Republican Sen. Dan Bishop, a primary sponsor of HB2, said on the Senate floor as the rollback was approved 32-16 , with nine of 15 Democrats among the yes votes.
While the new measure eliminates the rule on transgender bathroom use, it also makes clear that state legislators — not local government or school officials — are in charge of policy on public restrooms.
HB2 had invalidated any local ordinances that protect gay or transgender people from discrimination in the workplace or in public accommodations. Under the new law, local governments can’t enact any new such protections until December 2020.
Gay rights activists blasted the proposal, saying it was not a true repeal.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, if you vote for this bill, you are not a friend of the LGBT community,” Equality North Carolina executive director Chris Sgro said. “You are not standing on the right side of the moral arc of history or with the civil rights community.”
House Democratic leader Rep. Darren Jackson (left), Speaker of the House Rep. Tim Moore (top) and Rep. David Lewis confer before a vote to repeal HB 2 in the General Assembly on Thursday.