RALEIGH – N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory signed House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, Wednesday night.
“The most 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,” said McCrory in a statement. “This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but the people who come to Charlotte to work, play and visit. This new regulation defied common sense and basic community norms.”
The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation Wednesday evening to firm up the law-making authority boundaries between local and state law, effectively stopping Charlotte’s city ordinance that allows individuals to use any formerly sex-specific restroom they prefer. The votes were cast when lawmakers convened in Raleigh on Wednesday for an extra session. The new law requires single-sex, multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities in public schools and public agencies, and prohibits local authorities from imposing any regulations on employers or contractors regarding employment or anti-discrimination practices, except as required by state law.
“This is about what a local government unit can do and cannot do,” said Rep. Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg). “For the first time we are enacting a statewide statement of public policy against discrimination in public accommodations…the law remains unclear and we are proposing to make it clear.”
Bishop presented the legislation, co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake), that effectively establishes a law that requires people to use the restroom or locker room of the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Both chambers passed the measure easily. In the House opponents stayed and argued for Charlotte’s ordinance. In the Senate, Democrats walked out, with their leader calling the proceedings a farce.
“Well well, well – here we are again, this time to meddle in the affairs of local government. It is clear that this is to advance some political careers and tarnish other careers in an election year,” said Rep. Tricia Cothran (D-Mecklenburg). “We must be a state that welcomes and protects everyone in North Carolina. This legislation flies in the face of inclusiveness.”
Earlier in the day the House Judiciary Committee allowed public comment with speakers lined up to weigh in. Angela Bridgeman, a transgender business owner from Charlotte, tearfully told her story of dropping out of college because she wasn’t allowed to use the ladies’ room at her school.
“Transgender folks face tremendous amount of violence. We are the greatest state in this union and we can do better than giving into fears,” said Vivian Taylor, a transgender person. “I love this state and because of that I call on you to reject this bill.”
Other speakers spoke in favor of the proposed state law, saying that the privacy of many outweighed the objections of a few. Some said that the responsibility for this conflict lies squarely with North Carolina’s top lawyer, Attorney General Roy Cooper, the Democratic candidate for governor against Gov. McCrory.
“How do you spell treason? In this case it’s R-o-y-C-o-o-p-e-r,” said Pastor Jon Amanchukwu, executive director of Upper Room Academy in Durham. “He should’ve spoken up. It doesn’t take rocket science to know that this governmental overreach prevents us from being able to protect our precious children. Once again he is not doing his job, just as he didn’t do with the marriage amendment. I hope he decides to do his job while he still has the chance.”
The Judiciary Committee’s presiding chairman, Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke), gave one hour for public comment, alternating sides of the issue. A woman who was a victim of sexual assault opposed the bill and sent a statement, speaking to her paralyzing fear of men being allowed in women’s restrooms or locker rooms.
High school junior Chloe Jefferson of Greenville also spoke to lawmakers saying that her privacy rights are as important as those of transgender people. “Girls like me should never be forced to shower and undress in front of boys,” she said. “What about my rights to privacy? I believe everyone has their right to believe what they want, but the government should not pass laws that accommodate a small number of students at the expense of the rest of us.”
Other groups like Democracy NC and the American Civil Liberties Union, said the bill is discriminating against transgender people and not providing adequate facilities for their protection.
“This is the most anti-LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) legislation in the country, we should not be on the wrong side of history on this,” said Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford).
Following his signing of the bill on Wednesday night Governor McCrory encouraged the Charlotte city council to move on to other orders of business.