State News

N. Carolina governor links fate of LGBT law to Charlotte

Posted September 16

— Any actions toward repealing a North Carolina law that limits non-discrimination protections for LGBT people must be preceded by the city of Charlotte's repeal of a pro-LGBT ordinance, Gov. Pat McCrory's office said Friday.

The law known as House Bill 2 has had financial repercussions on the state, as criticism that the law is discriminatory has led to the cancelations of concerts, events and conventions that were to be hosted in North Carolina. House Bill 2 was approved in March by the state's Republican-led legislature and signed by McCrory just weeks after the Charlotte City Council expanded public accommodation protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

The law superseded Charlotte's ordinance and prohibited other North Carolina cities from passing similar rules. It also directed people to use bathrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to their birth certificate.

National criticism from gay-rights groups, corporate CEOs and politicians led to the cancellations of events and lawsuits to overturn the law. The NBA pulled its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte.

Financial ramifications of the law grew this week when the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference removed championship events from the state this academic year.

McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said in a statement that the governor would call a special session if two requisites are met: Charlotte must move first to repeal its expanded protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people; and secondly, a majority of lawmakers must be in favor of repeal.

"If the Charlotte City Council totally repeals the ordinance and then we can confirm there is support to repeal among the majority of state lawmakers in the House and Senate, the governor will call a special session," Ellis said.

The General Assembly isn't scheduled to reconvene until January. Last spring, legislative leaders said the Charlotte ordinance needed to be gone before any significant modifications would be considered to the state law. The Charlotte City Council declined to do so at the time.

The next city council meeting is Monday. Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who backed the ordinance, was evaluating the situation, spokesman Gregg Watkins said Friday night.

In a statement, Human Rights Campaign executive JoDee Winterhof called the proposed exchange the "same cheap trick the North Carolina General Assembly has attempted all along". If the cost of repealing House Bill 2 is getting rid of the Charlotte ordinance, the effect would be dropped protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people that companies and organizations say are needed.

The NCAA and ACC withdrawal from events in North Carolina this week prompted a handful of Republican lawmakers who voted for the law to reverse course this week and call for a full or partial repeal.

McCrory, a Republican, has been the law's biggest defender. He's pointed out how other states have also gone to court to reject a separate Obama administrative directive that schools must allow transgender students to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity.

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, didn't respond to a text Friday night seeking comment. The office of Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, didn't respond to an email. He had been traveling this week.

On Thursday, House Majority Leader John Bell, R-Wayne, said there was no broad appetite among his Republican colleagues for a special session. In an interview, however, Bell said the conflict falls back on Charlotte because it "is the one that pushed this agenda."

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