Austin, Texas — North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest lent his support Monday to Texas officials backing legislation to restrict access to public bathrooms in that state.
Forest appeared at a news conference in Austin with his counterpart, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and sponsors of Senate Bill 6, which, like North Carolina's House Bill 2, would require people to use public bathrooms in schools and other government buildings that correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates.
"Thank you for everyone here in Texas who is doing the right thing. I believe this is an issue about doing the right thing," Forest said. "It's not an issue about the transgender community. It's not an issue about the LGBT community. This is an issue about privacy and safety and protection for all people."
Forest has been a staunch defender of House Bill 2, which the North Carolina General Assembly passed a year ago to head off a Charlotte ordinance that would have required businesses in that city to let transgender people to use the bathroom based on their gender identity. The North Carolina law also excludes gay and transgender people from discrimination protections and bars cities and counties from setting their own minimum wage.
He likened the transgender bathroom issue to the Americans with Disabilities Act, noting businesses are required under that law to make reasonable accommodations in parking, access and other areas for people with handicaps.
"Texas, like North Carolina, is a state of reasonable accommodation," he said. "If there is somebody, whether they are transgender or otherwise, who fears using a public facility ... then you must provide them with reasonable accommodation. The Texas bill does the exact same thing – reasonable accommodation for a small minority of people that have these issues. That's showing compassion."
Forest disputed the notion that House Bill 2 has harmed North Carolina's economy, citing job growth and magazine surveys that continue to rank the state one of the best places to do business.
"No businesses left North Carolina," he said. "We're creating jobs at a rapid pace."
"Some might argue that, when you have policies that protect women and children, that's an added value to want to move your business to Texas," Patrick said, calling North Carolina "the tip of the spear" on the issue.
Forest will remain in Austin to testify on behalf of the Texas bill at a legislative committee hearing, spokesman Jamey Falkenbury said. He declined to say whether Forest was conducting any other business out of state or went to Texas specifically to support that bill.
Private funds were used to pay for Forest's trip, Falkenbury said.
Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, said Forest's trip illustrates that Republican leaders aren't interested in efforts to repeal House Bill 2, which have been stalled in the legislature.
"In the face of widespread opposition around our state to House Bill 2, Republican leaders are actively trying to export this kind of hateful and harmful legislation around our country," Goodwin said. "That shows you all you need to know about how out of touch Republicans are on this very issue."