The N.C. General Assembly held a special session Wednesday on a Charlotte LGBT non-discrimination ordinance passed in February.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and House Speaker Tim Moore called the session to discuss concerns with transgender individuals using bathrooms matching their gender identity — allowed by the ordinance.
“(House Bill 2 aims) to rectify the deeply disturbing blunder by the city council, which by its plain language purports to ban separate bathrooms for males and females,” said Rep. Dan Bishop, R-Mecklenburg, in a press release.
Bishop initially urged Charlotte City Council against the ordinance. He was one of the bill’s primary sponsors, saying non-gendered bathrooms would put women and families at risk.
But Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said the session took a turn when the bill — which negates the ordinance and a wider swath of non-discrimination policies — was introduced.
“It became a bait and switch as they introduced a bill that eliminates every anti-discrimination ordinance in the state,” he said.
Jackson said political agendas disrupted the democratic process and frustrated the room.
“Every single comment from a Republican who supported the special session was about the Charlotte ordinance until the day of the session, at which point it became about something much bigger,” he said.
The bill passed in the N.C. House 82-26, and unanimously in the Senate — following a walkout by Democrats.
“We thought that simply voting no on this bill was not enough,” Jackson said. “We needed to make a clear and unified statement that this legislation and legislative process is completely unacceptable.”
Around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday, Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law.
“My hope is that the governor listens to the people of the state and the business community in this state which does not want North Carolina to join the list of economic pariahs for embracing hateful legislation,” Jackson said.
Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement she was disappointed with the legislature.
“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,” she said.
Preston said legislators have used stereotypes and ignorance to marginalize the North Carolina transgender community and pass the bill.
“As far as I know, and I do a lot of research in this area, I have not seen any sort of statistics put forward that support this idea that young girls or women are experiencing violence or harassment in bathrooms as a result of these ordinances,” said Christy Mallory, senior counsel at the Williams Institute.
Even without statewide protection specific to sexual orientation and gender identity, Mallory said many cities create non-discrimination laws.
Jackson said public opinion in North Carolina will shift very quickly when people realize the reality of the bill.
“Once people see that we just passed the most sweeping pro-discrimination bill in the country, they are going to be beside themselves,” he said.