Despite calls from LGBT advocates urging him to veto the measure, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law late Wednesday legislation that would undo pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in his state, including the recently approved measure in Charlotte.
In a statement, McCrory said he had signed the measure, House Bill 2, because he thinks the Charlotte ordinance, which would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identity, violated privacy rights.
“As a result, I have signed legislation passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette which was to go into effect April 1,” McCrory said. “Although other items included in this bill should have waited until regular session, this bill does not change existing rights under state or federal law.”
McCrory blamed the city of Charlotte for enacting the ordinance, saying “the mayor and city council took action far out of its core responsibilities.”
“The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte,” McCrory said. “This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room.”
McCrory was expected to sign the law, although he didn’t give much notice about his planned action. After the legislature approved the measure on Wednesday, his office informed the media he would sign it before the next day.
At an estimated cost of $42,000, the North Carolina Legislature held a special session on Wednesday with the sole purpose of passing House Bill 2 and sending it McCrory. The House passed it after a three-hour debate by an 83-25 vote, but the Senate passed it more quickly, 32-0, after Senate Democrats walked out in protest of the bill.
Ian Palmquist, a North Carolina resident and director of leadership programs for the Equality Federation, a national umbrella group for state LGBT groups, condemned McCrory in a statement that called House Bill 2 “the most extreme, anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country.”
“If the governor had met personally with gay and transgender North Carolinians he would have seen people who go to work, go out to eat, and live their daily lives in our communities just like everyone else,” Palmquist said. “He would have seen people who should have a fair opportunity to provide for themselves and their families in our great state. I stand with the majority of North Carolinians when I say that this discriminatory law does not speak for us. We believe in fairness, freedom, and the ability of our cities and towns to govern themselves.”
The new law, among other things, prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms and locker rooms in schools and public agencies consistent with their gender identity. The law also supersedes all local ordinances governing non-discrimination and employment practices, which in a state with no prohibition against anti-LGBT bias would enable such discrimination across North Carolina.
The measure won’t only undo the Charlotte ordinance, but any LGBT non-discrimination city ordinance in the state, in addition to ordinances governing employee rights such as those making requirements for the minimum wage.
The law is along the lines of similar measures in Arkansas and Tennessee, which prohibit localities from enacting ordinances that go beyond non-discrimination protections in state law. But House Bill 2 is unprecedented in its scope and incorporation of language from anti-trans “papers to pee” bathroom bills in state legislatures across the country.
In a joint statement, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina announced they were exploring legal options to challenge the law.
“We expect the ACLU’s and Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desks will light up with calls from those who suffer discrimination imposed by this law, and we stand ready to help,” said Tara Borelli, senior attorney with Lambda Legal. ”This law is in direct conflict with protections provided to students under Title IX and could cause the state to lose billions in federal funds. Instead of solving any real problems, the law would create new ones and could lead to intolerable and unfair conditions for transgender students who are entitled, by federal law, to a safe and equitable education.”
Critics say the state law contravenes Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which the Obama administration has interpreted to prohibit discrimination against transgender students in schools. According to Freedom for All Americans, bucking the federal law could result in the loss of $4.5 billion in federal funds for North Carolina.
“With the stroke of a pen, Gov. McCrory is torching his state’s reputation and intentionally exposing hundreds of thousands of LGBT people to harassment and discrimination,” said Matt McTighe, executive director for Freedom for All Americans. “Gov. McCrory’s decision to hastily sign this bill will undoubtedly have economic consequences, but more worrisome is the message it sends to LGBT people – particularly youth – across the state. North Carolina is now squarely on the wrong side of history. Every single person – including LGBT people – deserves fairness and equality under the law, and we won’t rest until we can make that a reality across this nation.”
Joining the condemnation of McCrory for signing the legislation was Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“This is sadly unsurprising from a party that seems determined to stay stuck in the Stone Age on LGBT equality,” Wasserman Schultz. said. “From their refusal to accept marriage equality as the law of the land, to their disingenuous ‘free speech’ and ‘religious freedom’ justifications for discrimination, Republicans are hurting Americans who deserve the full and equal protection of the law. Now the same state lawmakers who pretend to love limited government are steamrolling over local officials just because they had the courage to stand up for transgender rights. Our friends in the LGBT community deserve better and so do all the people of North Carolina.”