Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory has asked the leaders of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate to set nationwide nondiscrimination rules in the midst of a fight over North Carolina's controversial House Bill 2, which deals with bathroom rules for transgender individuals.
"The time has come for Congress to seek a long-term and comprehensive resolution through legislative action and bring long-term clarity to our national non-discrimination laws," McCrory wrote in a letter dated May 18.
Since North Carolina passed House Bill 2 in March, the state has been at the center of a nationwide storm over transgender rights. State lawmakers say they passed the bill in response to a Charlotte City Council vote to create a citywide transgender nondiscrimination ordinance that would have required businesses to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice. The state law effectively voided that, but it went further, reaching into employment discrimination law and defining statewide nondiscrimination law in a way that excludes LGBT individuals.
The federal government has since sued the state, asking a federal court to declare House Bill 2 unconstitutional, and has said that North Carolina could lose federal education funding as a result of the law. However, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the Obama administration would not withhold those funds while litigation was ongoing.
"The threat of any federal agency to withhold federal funding from any state based on its unilateral and novel interpretation of a federal law is unprecedented and indefensible," McCrory wrote.
Asked whether congressional leaders has given the state any feedback on his letter, McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said the response had been "positive" and pointed to a House vote earlier this week.
The House voted to prohibit the administration from using any federal funds in such a way that would withdraw money from states over legislation such as House Bill 2. That amendment was part of a number of measures related to LGBT rights that Republican lawmakers sought to attach to the same bill.
While that amendment would keep the state from being punished over House Bill 2, it does not respond to a call for Congress to act on the broader issue. Reaction from North Carolina's federal leaders to House Bill 2 has been mixed. U.S. Sen. Richard Burr told the Huffington Post that North Carolina lawmakers had "botched" their work on the issue.
McCrory has said several times that the law represents a national issue and should be solved at the national level.
"Due to the inaction of Congress to define boundaries and provide clarity on this important and emerging issue, millions of Americans, businesses, educators and elected leaders continue to live and operate under a chaotic system of conflicting laws, regulations and judicial interpretations," McCrory wrote.
Rep. Chris Sgro, D-Guilford, executive director of LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, said he agrees a national solution is needed.
"Congress should act quickly to enact the Equality Act, which would ensure protections for LGBT people across the nation," Sgro said in a statement. "These protections are a best-practice in countless cities and states across the nation and are a business recruitment tool in those location. I do wonder why McCrory signed HB2, the worst anti-LGBT bill in the nation, if he is serious about anti-discrimination measures at the state or federal level."