House Bill 2, which prevents non-discrimination ordinances in North Carolina, was signed into law March 23 by Gov. Pat McCrory. The bill caused controversy in the N.C. Senate, where Democrats walked out before the vote — allowing it to pass unanimously. Staff writer Zaynab Nasif spoke with legal experts to determine the bill’s implications on all North Carolinians.
Q: How does House Bill 2 specifically restrict local municipalities and North Carolina residents?
A: The bill prohibits local municipalities from passing legislation about employment or public accommodations, leaving that ability to the state government.
It also affects towns’ and cities’ ability to pass legislation protecting citizens on the basis of sexual identity — such as the one passed in Charlotte in February.
“Municipalities can no longer pass ordinances that protect LGBT status,” said Maxine Eichner, a UNC law professor.
Kate Oakley, senior legal counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said rights other than sexual identity could be in question — though suits could still be filed under federal law.
“Some argue that HB 2 has eliminated the cause of action that lawyers have been using to bring wrongful termination suits, so it may be that a claim of discrimination on the basis of religion will only result in a mediation,” Oakley said.
Q: Does the bill outlaw all non-discrimination policies that could be extended to LGBT individuals?
A: No. For the public sector, North Carolina law now excludes sexual orientation or gender identity as characteristics protected from discrimination. And cities are additionally prohibited from passing ordinances that protect these individuals.
But if private businesses favor non-discrimination policies, particularly those based on an individual’s LGBT status, they have the legal right to continue to implement them.
Q: How does the law affect gender-neutral bathrooms in the state?
A: Private sector businesses can still choose whether they will offer gender-neutral facilities under House Bill 2.
But Eichner said there is only one possibility for entities in the public sector to provide gender-neutral bathrooms.
“(House Bill 2) says that a bathroom can be gender neutral if it is a single bathroom; other than that, there are no gender-neutral bathrooms,” she said.
Q: How does the law relate to local and state governments?
A: Though private sector businesses can follow their own decision making policies under the law, public sector employees and organizations will be subject to its restrictions.
According to James Miller, executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, House Bill 2 redirects certain powers to the state government.
“The law really takes the power out of the hands of local governments and puts it in state governments,” Miller said.