But for some, the action was too little, too late.
David McLennan, a political science professor at Meredith College, said in an email the governor’s unexpected action was an attempt to mitigate the damage from House Bill 2 on McCrory’s re-election.
“The governor is likely to discover that the damage to his campaign has already been done,” McLennan said.
He said according to poll numbers, the law was hurting the state’s ability to attract business — and McCrory’s reelection campaign is centered on his work to reinvigorate the state’s economy, prompting the executive action.
Mike Meno, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said the action essentially does three things: expands protections for LGBT workers who are state employees, affirms that private businesses can do what they want with their nondiscrimination policies and calls on the legislature to restore residents’ private right of action in state court.
House Bill 2 initially took away North Carolinians’ right to file a lawsuit in state court if they were terminated because of discrimination. Residents could only file in the federal court, a process that Meno said was more expensive, harder to find attorneys for and gives only a 180-day window to file — and now it’s up to the very legislature that passed the law to change it.
Sarah McBride, spokesperson for the Center for American Progress, said while protection of LGBT state workers is a step in the right direction, some of the most harmful aspects of the law are still present.
“It does nothing to protect North Carolinians who are transgender from discrimination. It does nothing to protect transgender UNC students from discrimination when they try to access bathrooms, and really it just doubles down on some of the worst aspects of HB2,” McBride said.
But the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, issued a statement Wednesday that supported McCrory’s decision to maintain the restrictions of public bathrooms to biological sex only.
“The executive order also keeps intact the right of private businesses to live and work according to their peacefully expressed beliefs,” Creech said in the statement.
Still, McCrory’s action has not stalled the civil rights organizations and North Carolina residents who filed a lawsuit against House Bill 2 after it was signed into law March 23.
Meno said the lawsuit did not change as a result of the executive action — the anti-transgender bathroom provision still stands, and the governor’s action only lessens discrimination instead of eliminating it entirely.
“I think it’s a sign that the governor is feeling a lot of heat from this law, from the business community, from people in North Carolina and from the nation who won’t tolerate this type of discrimination,” he said.