House speaker promises one-day session on Charlotte ordinance
Posted March 22
Updated March 24
Raleigh, N.C. — House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday that lawmakers plan to take quick action on a Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance when they return to Raleigh on Wednesday for a special legislative session.
The ordinance broadly defines how businesses treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers, but a provision that would allow transgendered people to use public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity created an outcry among social conservatives and legislative leaders such as Moore, R-Cleveland.
“We try to defer to local government as far, as much as we can, but when a local government goes on such a radical course and a reckless course, we in the General Assembly have, I think, not only the authority but actually the duty to do something about it, and in this case, we’re going to,” he said.
House and Senate leaders hope to push legislation through both chambers in a matter of hours Wednesday that would overturn the Charlotte ordinance, which is scheduled to take effect April 1.
Although a bill hasn’t been drafted yet, Moore said it will ban local nondiscrimination laws and replace them with a statewide law. He couldn't say whether the state law would include protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.
Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said critics of the Charlotte ordinance have highlighted the bathroom provision to foster fear and encourage people to oppose nondiscrimination laws.
Several conservative groups on Monday called for lawmakers to approve a so-called religious freedom bill, saying local ordinances such as Charlotte’s infringe on the right of business owners who might not want to serve LGBT customers because of their religious beliefs.
“Charlotte chose to pass this nondiscrimination ordinance to try to provide for protections for everyone in their community in areas such as public accommodations,” Preston said. “What we’re hearing in response to that is a lot of vitriol and stigmatization of certain parts of the community that’s really unnecessary.
“That's really the problem with all of this discussion,” she continued. “It really should be about how do we pass ordinances that treat everyone fairly and don't discriminate, and instead, they're focusing on how to stigmatize particular elements of our community. “
Moore said the bill also could include language that would ban so-called living wage laws that raise the local minimum wage in cities and counties.