N.C. Lawmakers To Consider Repealing Controversial Bathroom Law
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
This morning, the North Carolina state legislature will meet to vote on whether to repeal the controversial House Bill 2. This law infuriated advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans individuals. It limited legal protections for them. Today's vote is supposed to resolve a dispute between Republican lawmakers and a Democratic-controlled city council in Charlotte. David Boraks from member station WFAE reports.
DAVID BORAKS, BYLINE: The tug of war started back in February. That's when Charlotte City Council voted to add sexual orientation to the city's anti-discrimination ordinance. A month later...
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
UNIDENTIFIED NC REPRESENTATIVE: The House will come to order.
BORAKS: ...North Carolina's Republican-controlled General Assembly passed House Bill 2 to override Charlotte's ordinance. Soon, businesses and organizations unhappy with HB2 started canceling hiring plans and big events like the NBA All-Star Game. Lawmakers then offered to repeal HB2 if Charlotte repealed its ordinance first. The council refused twice. This week, they had a change of heart, says council member Vi Lyles.
VI LYLES: When we adopted our nondiscrimination ordinance, the intent was to make us a more welcoming city for economic development. When the state passed HB2, the unintended consequences were that we are not welcoming and we were losing jobs. So we have a big stake in making a change and having HB2 repealed.
AL AUSTIN: I'm a member of the LGBT community and so this was tough.
BORAKS: That's city council member Al Austin. He says the council's repeal wasn't the path he would have chosen, but it was a necessary step to end HB2. After Monday's surprise vote, many of the LGBT community felt betrayed. Matt Hirschy is with Equality NC.
MATT HIRSCHY: I have to be very clear here, I can not endorse or support Charlotte rescinding any protection for LGBT folks, regardless of the ordinance being superseded by state law.
BORAKS: Much of the discussion about HB2 focused on the law's requirement that transgender people use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificates instead of their gender identities. That earned it a nickname - the bathroom bill. State and federal laws specifically protect people from discrimination based on race, national origin or age. In North Carolina, as in many states, it is legal to discriminate based on sexual orientation. Lara Americo is a 32-year-old transgender woman from Charlotte. She says she doesn't want to be a second-class citizen and she wants to feel safe.
LARA AMERICO: It can be scary just walking out of the house as a transgender person, just knowing that someone can figure out that you're transgender and hate that about you. It's very hurtful. And the protections are needed.
SEAN HERRMANN: What Charlotte did when it passed that ordinance was it expanded rights into an area where there just was nothing before. And that, you know, it lasted a very short time.
BORAKS: Sean Herrmann is a Charlotte civil rights lawyer. Depending on what happens in today's special session, HB2 might not last long, either. If that happens...
HERRMANN: The truth is it's just back to the norm.
BORAKS: And the norm, Herrmann says, is that the LGBT community in the state is not protected from discrimination.
For NPR News, I'm David Boraks in Charlotte. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.