World

LGBT bathroom law bill not a 'complete' repeal, N.C. governor admits

North Carolina's Senate and House on Thursday approved a bill to retool a law banning transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identities, hoping to bring back companies and sports leagues that had boycotted the state.

Previous law required transgender people to use the restroom that matched their birth gender

Republican Michael Speciale, debates on the floor of the the North Carolina State House prior to a vote on HB 142 on Thursday in Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina lawmakers voted Thursday to roll back North Carolina's 'bathroom bill.' (Brian Blanco/The Associated Press)

North Carolina on Thursday repealed a law restricting bathroom use for transgender people, hoping to bring back businesses and sports leagues that boycotted the Southern state because they saw the year-old measure as discriminatory.

However, the new law replacing the old one bans cities in the state from passing their own anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people until 2020, drawing scorn from civil rights advocates and casting doubt on whether boycotting businesses will return to the state.

Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signed the replacement bill into law after the Republican-controlled state Senate and House of Representatives approved it in separate votes in the capital, Raleigh.

The new measure rescinds House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill also popularly known as HB 2, which required transgender people to use the bathrooms, changing rooms and showers in state-run buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

This Thursday, May 12, 2016 file photo shows a sign outside a restroom at 21c Museum Hotel in Durham, N.C. The Associated Press has determined that North Carolina's law limiting LGBT protections would have cost the state more than $3 billion in lost business over a dozen years. (Gerry Broome/The Associated Press)

HB 2's enactment a year ago prompted boycotts that cost the state economy hundreds of millions of dollars. Deutsche Bank AG and PayPal Holdings Inc reversed expansion plans in the state. Entertainers such as Bruce Springsteen and Itzhak Perlman cancelled concerts.

In basketball-crazed North Carolina, the withdrawal of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) games and the National Basketball Association All-Star game, which had been awarded to Charlotte, reverberated throughout the state.

Under the new law, transgender people are once again free to use the bathroom of their choice, but they lack any recourse should a person, business or state entity eject or harass them. The new law also strips LGBT people of state legal protections in other areas such as employment and housing.

Bill a 'disgrace': transgender advocate

Outraged LGBT advocates, who had wanted an unconditional repeal of HB 2, were already pressuring business and sports organizations not to return.

"This the end of HB 2 in name only. The bill that was passed today is a disgrace, not a 'fix,' a 'reset,' or a 'compromise,' and certainly not a repeal," Mara Keisling, director of the Washhington-based National Center for Transgender Equality, said in a statement.

"Putting any kind of moratorium on civil rights, whether six months or three years long, is dangerous and wrong," she said.

Deutsche Bank, which in response to HB 2 froze plans to create 250 jobs at its location in Cary, N.C., declined to comment on Thursday.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper worked with Republican House and Senate leaders to scrap a year-old law requiring transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate. (Chris Seward/The News & Observer via AP)

Elected political rivals on both sides of the issue claimed at least partial victories in reaching the compromise that produced the new law. Both Cooper and the Republican House speaker said they expected the NCAA to once again schedule events in the state, even though the organization had yet to make a statement.

Cooper vows to fight on

The deal to replace HB 2 came together on Wednesday night, just ahead of an NCAA deadline to amend the law. The governor told reporters the law was imperfect but said Thursday's action would help begin repairing North Carolina's damaged reputation.

"I wish this were a complete, total repeal, and whenever I get the chance to do that I will do that. ... I'm going to fight every single day for LGBT protections," Cooper said.

HB 2 was passed in response to an ordinance in Charlotte, the state's largest city, that permitted transgender people to use the bathrooms matching their gender identity.

Darren Jackson, Democratic minority leader, holds a a copy of HB2 during debate on the state House floor. (Brian Blanco/The Associated Press)

The Charlotte ordinance alarmed social conservatives who, without evidence, feared it would endanger women and girls in intimate spaces.

House Speaker Tim Moore said the new state law protected bathroom safety, but some social conservatives were unsatisfied.

"The truth remains, no basketball game, corporation, or entertainment event is worth even one little girl losing her privacy and dignity to a boy in the locker room, or being harmed or frightened in a bathroom," said Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition in Raleigh and an outspoken supporter of HB 2.