Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Repeal of North Carolina LGBT law fails

Repeal of North Carolina LGBT law fails 
Protesters head into the legislative building April 25, 2016, for a sit-in against House Bill 2 in Raleigh, N.C. The state's legislators will repeal the contentious law that limited protections for LGBT people and led to an economic backlash, Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said Dec. 19. (Chuck Liddy / AP)

A deal to repeal North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which limited lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender access to facilities, fell apart late Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans in the state legislature clashed over the measure’s provisions.

Amid deepening acrimony, a supposedly bipartisan deal to kill the North Carolina law known as the "bathroom bill" fell apart Wednesday night, ensuring the likelihood that global corporations and national sports events will continue to stay away from the state.

The law limits protections for LGBT people and was best known for a provision that requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates. It was passed earlier this year after Charlotte officials approved a sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance.

The repeal compromise touted by both Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory called for Charlotte to do away with its ordinance. In exchange, lawmakers would undo the LGBT law.

But both sides balked: GOP lawmakers cried foul when Charlotte leaders initially left part of the city’s ordinance in place. And when the Senate bill called for a months-long ban on cities passing similar ordinances, Democrats said Republicans were going back on their promise. Cooper said the moratorium essentially doubled down on discrimination.

Legislators then adjourned a special session called to consider the issue, leaving the law still in place.

A repeal measure put forward by state Senate Republicans Wednesday would have included a six-month moratorium on any local government that wants to “enact or amend an ordinance regulating employment practices or regulating public accommodations or access to restrooms, showers or changing facilities.”

Democrats argued the measure was only a partial repeal, because the moratorium could be renewed repeatedly, essentially making it impossible for cities to pass nondiscrimination laws.

“This wasn’t the deal,’’ Democratic state Senator Jeff Jackson said.

In March, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed the law, commonly referred to as the bathroom bill. A wide-ranging bill, it’s most known for banning individuals from using public bathrooms, such as in schools or government buildings, that do not correspond with their biological sex, as dictated by their birth certificates.

It also bars cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay, transgender and bisexual people.

The state pushed through HB2 after the city of Charlotte passed a nondiscrimination ordinance in February that allowed transgender people to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

North Carolina’s Democratic Governor-elect Roy Cooper said on Monday that lawmakers were to meet in a special legislative session to repeal the controversial measure that triggered a social and economic backlash against the southern U.S. state, costing it millions of dollars in tourism, sports and entertainment revenue.

“Full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state,” Cooper said.

Citing the right to privacy, outgoing North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has staunchly defended the law, which largely impacts transgender people.

Backlash and lawsuits

However, HB2 has been blasted by bi gays rights groups. The backlash against the law resulted in job losses and sporting event cancellations for the state.

The bathroom measure led to lawsuits against the state, including in May by the Obama administration, which sued the state, saying the law breaks federal anti-discrimination laws.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the law is “state-sponsored discrimination” that reminds her of a time when blacks were barred from public facilities and states could dictate who was allowed to marry.

The gay advocacy groups Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina said in a statement, “It’s time for state lawmakers to repeal HB2 and begin repairing the harm this bill has done to people and the damage it has done to North Carolina’s reputation and economy.”

The troubles in reaching a resolution exposed the intense distrust within the legislature that has only intensified over the years, especially since Republicans took over control of state government in 2013. Cooper’s victory was greeted last week by Republicans acting in a special session to strip away several powers.

“This has been a long and ultimately frustrating day,” Senate leader Phil Berger told reporters after the session ended.

He blamed Cooper and Charlotte leaders for sinking the deal. Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue criticized McCrory for calling the special session a few days before Christmas when there didn’t seem to be an agreement.

And House Republicans couldn’t seem to figure out what they wanted. They spent most of the day in closed-door meetings fighting about whether to approve a repeal bill.

People crowded the House and Senate galleries and in the third-floor rotunda all day, keeping watch on the action, or lack thereof. But the mood was much more docile than the angry demonstrations of last week when more than 50 demonstrators were arrested over two days.

Social conservatives were thrilled with the preservation of HB2. North Carolina Values Coalition executive director Tami Fitzgerald praised lawmakers “who stood up for what is right and represented the will of voters by stopping the move to cower and cave-in to the City of Charlotte and the Human Rights Campaign.”

Conservative groups said HB2 provides privacy and protection for children using restrooms and locker rooms.

Lawmakers have worked “hard to protect our families, and women and children from the risk that might be imposed by these lunatic ordinances that the lunatic left in Charlotte and other places want to enact,” said Republican Sen. Buck Newton, who championed HB2 when it was passed in March and supported it ever since.

The U.S. Justice Department and others contend the threat of sexual predators posing as transgender persons to enter a bathroom is practically nonexistent.

“This was a counterproductive exercise in reaffirming to the rest of the country that North Carolina wants to remain mired in this divisive dispute,” said Simone Bell, Southern regional director at Lambda Legal, a gay rights group.

HB2 has been blasted by gay rights groups and resulted in conventions, jobs and sporting events like the NBA All-Star Game shunning North Carolina. Corporate critics of the law included Deutsche Bank and Paypal, which both backed out of projects that would have brought hundreds of jobs to the state.

The law was also seen as a referendum on McCrory, who became its national face. He lost by about 10,000 votes to Cooper. Meanwhile, fellow Republicans U.S. Sen. Richard Burr and President-elect Donald Trump comfortably won the state.

McCrory was the first sitting North Carolina governor elected to a four-year term to lose re-election.

Repealing the state law could also have ended protracted legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate Virginia case on transgender restroom access.

Cooper said earlier this week that Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore had assured him that Charlotte’s vote to repeal its ordinance would lead to a full repeal. He had lobbied Charlotte’s city council to gut its local nondiscrimination ordinance.

Republicans fired back that it was Charlotte city leaders who passed a partial repeal of its ordinance Monday. Council leaders disagreed with that assessment, but still met Wednesday morning — an hour before the special session began — to repeal other portions of the ordinance. The local repeal was contingent on undoing HB2 by Dec. 31.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a release that the law will continue to burden Republicans.

“Today, the public trust has been betrayed once again. Lawmakers sent a clear message: North Carolina remains closed for business,” Griffin said.

@Bisexual News