The North Carolina General Assembly convened a $42,000 special session to introduce and pass a measure that overrides an anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte and prevents local governments from enacting nondiscrimination policies to protect LGBT people.
The Charlotte ordinance protected LGBT residents from discrimination in public accommodations, including restaurants, hotels, taxis and bathrooms. Among other protections, it allowed transgender men and transgender women to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
Soon after the bill passed the Legislature, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the measure into law.
The measure removes the ability of any local government to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and requires all public facilities, including schools, to allow restroom access only on the basis of “biological sex.”
The measure jeopardizes more than $4.5 billion in federal funding that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools under Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.
“Rather than expand nondiscrimination laws to protect all North Carolinians, the General Assembly instead spent $42,000 to rush through an extreme bill that undoes all local nondiscrimination laws and specifically excludes gay and transgender people from legal protections,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “The manner in which legislators passed the most extreme anti-LGBT bill in the nation — voting hours after it was unveiled without adequate public debate — flies in the face of fairness and democracy."
More than 200 cities, including Myrtle Beach and Columbia, South Carolina, have adopted nondiscrimination ordinances similar to Charlotte’s without negative consequences.
The North Carolina League of Municipalities, Attorney General Roy Cooper, Red Hat and Dow Chemical were among those who came out in opposition to the bill, in addition to major companies including Apple, Siemens, Microsoft, and AT&T who supported the Charlotte ordinance.
A Public Policy Polling survey released on March 22 showed widespread, bipartisan agreement among state voters that the Legislature should leave Charlotte’s ordinance alone.
"We did everything we could to defeat this legislation that was introduced and signed during a hastily-called special session of the General Assembly. We collaborated closely with Equality North Carolina, National Center for Transgender Equality, ACLU, HRC, Freedom for All Americans, and others to prepare spokespeople, connect constituents to their lawmakers via calls and emails, and to educate lawmakers directly," said Rebecca Isaacs, executive director of the Equality Federation, a coalition of LGBT civil rights groups. "Unfortunately, we were up against a conservative House, Senate, and a governor who has been relying on disgusting, fear-mongering, anti-transgender rhetoric to fuel his re-election campaign."
The next step may lead to the courthouse.
"We’re not giving up. The ACLU and Equality North Carolina are exploring a path forward in the courts. Several rallies are being held today. And, large businesses in the state like DOW Chemicals are standing strong against discrimination," Isaacs said.