Stella Maxwell
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North Carolina Gov. Alters Discriminatory Law — Barely

Gov. Pat McCrory

In reaction to the backlash against its new anti-LGBT law, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed an executive order that makes modest changes.

McCrory’s order, announced today, maintains the major portions of the law, known as House Bill 2, which prevents local governments from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive employment nondiscrimination ordinances (affecting private businesses or contractors) and bars transgender people from using the restrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated facilities comporting with their gender identity, if these facilities are located in government buildings, including public elementary and secondary schools and state colleges and universities.

The order does affirm that private businesses and nonprofit groups can establish their own policies for these facilities, something that was not affected by the law but has been the subject of some confusion.

McCrory’s action also affirms that private businesses, nonprofits, and local governments can establish their own employment nondiscrimination policies — for their own workers. And it expands the state’s employment nondiscrimination policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity — that is, for state employees.

McCrory said he will also seek legislation allowing workers to sue in state court for discrimination, something that was explicitly barred by HB 2.

In a video (watch below) accompanying the announcement, McCrory decried “selective outrage” over the law and contended it had been misinterpreted. He also denounced what he called “overreach” by the Charlotte City Council in adopting an LGBT-inclusive public accommodations ordinance, which spurred the state legislature to pass HB 2 last month. He called the restroom provisions of HB 2 “common sense,” and noted that it allows for special accommodations — that is, single-occupancy restrooms and locker rooms — in government buildings.

Many major corporations and celebrities have condemned the measure. Just today, Deutsche Bank announced it was canceling a planned expansion of its operations in Cary, which is near Raleigh, the state capital.

Activists said McCrory’s order does not do nearly enough to mitigate the effects of HB 2.

“Gov. McCrory’s actions today are a poor effort to save face after his sweeping attacks on the LGBT community, and they fall far short of correcting the damage done when he signed the harmful House Bill 2 into law which stigmatizes and mandates discrimination against gay and transgender people,” said a statement issued by Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. “With this executive order, LGBT individuals still lack legal protections from discrimination, and transgender people are still explicitly targeted by being forced to use the wrong restroom.” She called on the state to repeal the law, which is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the national ACLU, the North Carolina affiliate, and Lambda Legal.

Equality North Carolina and the Human Rights Campaign also were less than impressed with McCrory's effort. 

“While Governor McCrory's Executive Order creates vital protections in public employment on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, it does not address the deep concerns we share with members of the business community and citizens across the state about the damaging impact of HB 2,” said Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro in a statement on the HRC website. “In fact, the order doubles down on the Governor's support for some of the most problematic provisions of HB 2.”

Added HRC legal director Sarah Warbelow: “The governor’s action is an insufficient response to a terrible, misguided law that continues to harm LGBT people on a daily basis. It’s absurd that he’ll protect people from being fired but will prohibit them from using the employee restroom consistent with their gender identity. The North Carolina Legislature must act to right this wrong as swiftly as possible. They created this horrendous law, and they need to repeal it.”

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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