In the span of a single day, North Carolina lawmakers introduced and passed a bill through two houses and got it signed by the governor. That seemingly urgent bill strikes down all existing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances across the state.
North Carolina lawmakers voted overwhelmingly today during a special legislative session that was called in response to Charlotte, N.C. passing a transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.
The state’s Republican-led House of Representatives passed House Bill 2 by a vote of 83-24, according to the anti-LGBT North Carolina Family Policy Council, which supports the legislation. Less than 10 hours after it was introduced, the bill unanimously passed the Republican-controlled Senate, in a vote of 32-0, because every Democratic Senator walked out of the chamber in protest, according to BuzzFeed News. Then Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed it that same night.
"I signed bipartisan legislation to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms," he said on Twitter.
McCrory is attacking transgender people in that statement, signing onto the notion this is a "bathroom bill." The special session was called in response to Charlotte's public accommodations ordinance, passed by the local city council in February, adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s antidiscrimination law. The ordinance does not affect employment, only public accommodations — and does include guarantees that transgender people can use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity.
The ordinance applies to shops, restaurants, taxi and limousine services, and other businesses that serve the general public. Businesses refusing to serve same-sex weddings or LGBT Pride events, for instance, would be in violation of the ordinance.
The ordinance was set to take effect April 1 — but lawmakers in North Carolina have the power to overrule municipal decisions, which appears to be the goal of HB 2. However, as Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson noted on Facebook, HB 2 reaches far beyond Charlotte, and would effectively strike down all LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances enacted by localities throughout the state.
The response to the legislation’s passage through the House was swiftly denounced by pro-LGBT lawmakers, while agricultural company Dow Chemical promptly took to Twitter to announce its opposition to the “attempt to undermine equality in Charlotte.”
— Dow Public Policy (@DowPolicy) March 23, 2016
North Carolina’s Democratic attorney general, Roy Cooper, issued a terse video statement moments after the House vote, saying, “North Carolina is better than this.”
“Discrimination is wrong, period,” Cooper continued. “That North Carolina is making discrimination part of the law is shameful. It will not only cause real harm to families, but to our economy as well. We have seen how this played out when Indiana tried it — businesses left the state, or thought twice about bringing in new jobs, and millions of dollars in revenue was lost.”
Indeed, after Indiana last year passed and subsequently amended a so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that opponents decried as a “license to discriminate,” the state took an estimated $60 million financial hit, and untold damage to its reputation as nationwide outrage from business, political, celebrity, and academic communities was foisted on the state.
Watch the North Carolina attorney general’s comments below.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.