Raleigh, N.C. — Lawmakers said Wednesday that there's no chance they will repeal a provision of a new law that requires people to use the public bathroom that matches their birth gender, but they said other portions of the law could be tweaked.
A WRAL News poll released Tuesday found that 56 percent of likely North Carolina voters agree with the bathroom provision of House Bill 2, which was signed into law three weeks ago after a special one-day legislative session. Fifty-six percent also said that allowing a transgender person to use a women's bathroom poses a security risk to women and children.
"(It's) probably really a higher number, depending on how you ask the question," Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, said of support for the provision. "The bathroom ordinance, it needs to stand to keep men out of women's bathrooms."
Rep. Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said the poll results are disappointing but not surprising.
"It seems like the proponents of the bill have been very successful in demonizing transgender men and women as sexual predators and pedophiles. I don’t think there’s any evidence to back that up," Jackson said. "(It) has been my experience that they just want to live life and be left alone and pose no threat to anyone."
Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond, was among nine House Democrats to vote for the bill, and he said he agrees with the 76 percent response in the WRAL News poll that the law needs to be changed. Thirty-seven percent said they want it completely repealed, 20 percent said repeal everything but the bathroom provision and 19 percent said make other changes to it.
"On most of the things in your survey, on the fact that it’s probably doing some damage to the state, that we need to go back and revisit some of the other provisions, I’m pretty much down the line on those things," Goodman said. "A majority of the state wants to keep the bathroom provision that’s in the bill, and I think that’s a reasonable thing to do too. So, I probably follow the majority of the people."
"I think it needs to be repealed," Jackson said. "I think it’s hurting our state image, our state’s brand."
Sixty-one percent of people said in the poll that House Bill 2 has hurt North Carolina's image nationwide. Likewise, 61 percent said the law has hurt the state's ability to bring jobs to the state.
"I don’t know whether it’s hurting the state or not," Tucker said. "It seems to me that there’s a lot of double-speak and hypocrisy going on."
He cited PayPal, which canceled plans for a 400-person operations center in Charlotte but does business "in five countries that execute homosexuals," and the NBA, which doesn't allow men and women to compete with each other on the basketball court but is under pressure to move the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.
PayPal and other businesses have objected to portions of the law that exclude gays, lesbians and transgender people from protections against discrimination in employment and public housing and bar cities and counties from extending such protections on their own.
Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order Tuesday that extended employment discrimination protections to LGBT state workers, and he called on lawmakers to repeal a section of the law that eliminated the right of people to file employment discrimination lawsuits in state court.
"There may be a possibility of some consideration to place employment discrimination back into the state," Tucker said, adding that he doesn't believe the rules should revert to what they were before.
"I don’t believe that you need a three-year period to determine whether or not you’ve been discriminated against," he said. "In federal law, it’s 180 days. Possibly if the state matched that time period to follow suit, then that’s something I could certainly take a look at."
Jackson and Goodman blamed the speed with which House Bill 2 moved through the legislature for some of the problems with it.
"The bathroom provision was the overriding issue, and some of the other, the implications of the other provisions weren’t obvious when we’re sitting in the session," Goodman said. "We had no time to review the bill. We had no time to get feedback. So, there are some things that, after the fact, might need another look."
"We need to repeal House Bill 2, and if there are other things that we need to look at, we need to go back and do that at a more deliberate pace – hear the evidence, hear from both sides, read the language, know what we’re doing before we pass a bill and it gets signed in less than 12 hours," Jackson said.
Neither Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger nor House Speaker Tim Moore was available Wednesday to comment on the poll results, but a spokeswoman for Berger said in a statement, "An overwhelming majority of North Carolinians we've heard from support" House Bill 2.