A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law — also known as the bathroom bill — collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.
After more than nine hours of backroom discussions and sporadic public effort, Republican state legislators quit trying to repeal House Bill 2 and went home Wednesday night.
The law omits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protections, bars local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT citizens from being denied civil rights in employment and housing. It orders transgender people to use bathrooms and showers that align with their sex at birth, even if they’ve physically transitioned into the gender they identify with. The bill forces muscular, bearded men who were born as girls into using ladies’ rooms and feminine women in high heels and makeup into using men’s rooms.
But social conservatives defended the bathroom bill as necessary to prevent heterosexual men from presenting themselves as women in order to molest women and girls in bathrooms.A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.
The issue of transgender bathroom use “wasn’t a problem North Carolina was facing,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Legislators “should admit they messed up and repeal the bill.
The U.S. Justice Department and others contend the threat of sexual predators posing as transgender persons to enter a bathroom is practically nonexistent.
The bathroom bill has been blasted by gay-rights groups and resulted in many millions of dollars worth of economic benefits, as conventions, jobs and sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star Game, now shun the state. Corporate critics of the law included Deutsche Bank and Paypal, which both backed out of projects that would have brought hundreds of jobs to North Carolina.
“The NCAA’s decision to withhold championships from North Carolina remains unchanged,” spokesman Bob Williams said.
Repealing the state law could have ended protracted and expensive legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate Virginia case on transgender restroom access.
“I’m disappointed that we have yet to remove the stain from the reputation of our great state that is around this country and around the world,” Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said.
He said he and his staff worked for more than a week on forging an agreement to repeal the law, talking with lawmakers from both parties, businesses, sports industry representatives and LGBT leaders.
GOP legislators who see themselves as business-friendly appeared shaken by a months-long backlash as major companies like BASF, IBM and Bank of America described HB2 as bad for business.
A compromise touted by both Cooper and outgoing GOP Gov. Pat McCrory called for Charlotte to eliminate its anti-discrimination ordinance in exchange for lawmakers undoing the anti-LGBT law.
But North Carolina’s religious-right never wanted to repeal the law, and GOP lawmakers cried foul when Charlotte leaders initially left part of the city’s ordinance in place.
McCrory signed the law and became its national face. HB2, along with other right-leaning bills he signed, turned this fall’s gubernatorial campaign into a referendum on the state’s recent conservative slant. He lost by about 10,000 votes to Cooper.