Washington, Mar 31 (AFP) North Carolina lawmakers have reversed course and voted to repeal and replace a costly, contentious law that restricts transgender people’s use of bathrooms, but rights activists warn the new measure fails to assure state-wide protections.
The so-called “bathroom bill” had drawn intense criticism since it was debated in 2015 and narrowly passed by the state last March. Its replacement now heads to the state’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who is expected to sign it.
The move follows an agreement struck between Republican lawmakers and Cooper aimed in part at removing a negative spotlight on North Carolina that has driven away some big business and led major sports organizations to keep key athletic events out of the state.
The initial legislation in North Carolina — a southeastern swing state that helped elect Republican Donald Trump president last November — featured prominently in the broader cultural war between conservatives and liberals in contemporary America.
The law, signed by the previous Republican governor and often referred to as HB2, stated that in schools and government buildings transgender people had to use restrooms corresponding with the gender on their birth certificate and not their current gender identity.
“Compromise is difficult for both sides, but we are pleased this proposal fully protects safety and privacy by keeping men out of women’s bathrooms, and removes the distraction of HB2 from North Carolina’s success story of outpacing the rest of the United States in job growth,” state Senate President Phil Berger said in a statement.
“We have strengthened our state’s privacy protections…This is a great step forward,” added North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore after the measure cleared the legislature.
Following a year of turmoil, an agreement was struck late Wednesday that repeals HB2.
But the replacement bill would include a concession to conservatives by placing regulation of bathrooms under exclusive state control until December 2020, thereby barring local governments and cities from passing their own anti-discrimination laws.
“I support the House Bill 2 repeal compromise that will be introduced tomorrow,” the governor said, Cooper said late Wednesday. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”
It was an anti-discrimination ordinance in the city of Charlotte that touched off a furious debate in February 2016.
That rule allowed transgender people to use the restroom of their choice.
Rights groups strongly condemned the latest deal, with the Human Rights Campaign warning that any lawmaker who supports it is “no ally of LGBTQ people.”
“This proposal masquerading as a solution is really an extreme license to discriminate — the last thing that North Carolina needs,” Cathryn Oakley, the group’s senior legislative counsel, said in a statement.
Major corporations, performers like Bruce Springsteen and sports leagues have boycotted the state, and the governor has warned that HB2 “could cost us nearly USD 4 billion.” (AFP) EMY
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.