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North Carolina deal would repeal controversial transgender bathroom law

By Pamela Wolf, J.D.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has proposed a compromise in the battle over legislation that was aimed at blunting a Charlotte ordinance that would have extended antidiscrimination protections to transgender individuals in that city. In March 2016, then-Governor Pat McCrory approved H.B. 2, same-day legislation that bars and negates any state or local law extending antidiscrimination protections in employment and public accommodations to transgender individuals. The measure was widely seen as giving employers and businesses a green light to discriminate against transgender people.

H.B. 2 also limits employment antidiscrimination protections currently based on “sex” to expressly mean “biological sex.” Under the controversial law, regulation of discriminatory employment practices is left to the state, and state laws and regulations supersede local ones, except to the extent they regulate the local body’s own personnel and do not otherwise conflict with state law.

The legislation brought considerable negative publicity to North Carolina, costing the state a substantial loss of revenue when businesses pulled out of the state. It is also widely seen as having weighed heavily in McCrory’s reelection defeat.

Governor Cooper’s compromise would repeal H.B. 2 while taking major steps to address all stated Republican concerns, according to his press release. The proposal would fully repeal H.B. 2, mandate tougher penalties for crimes committed in restrooms and dressing rooms, and require that local governments give the state legislature 30 days’ notice before voting on nondiscrimination ordinances.

“I know North Carolinians are tired of hearing about this. HB 2 has divided us and stained our reputation,” Cooper said. “I’ve proposed a common sense compromise that will get HB2 off the books and address concerns on both sides. It’s time for Republican leaders to step up and lead their members because February needs to be the month we get this done.”

“HB 2 has already cost our economy thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars,” said House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson. “We now have a very short window to take action before the NCAA removes tournament games for six years. We must act. With this compromise, every single Republican justification for House Bill 2 will be addressed. It’s time for Republican leaders to have the backbone to put our economy first and repeal this disastrous law.”

An earlier deal to repeal the law fell through after Charlotte City Council rescinded its nondiscrimination ordinance because Republican leaders broke their pledge to offer a clean vote for repeal, according to Cooper.