Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina lawmakers could vote Wednesday to ban local governments from extending anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, and transgender people.
A draft version of the bill circulating Tuesday night sets out a new statewide non-discrimination ordinance that covers only "race, religion, color, national origin, or sex." City and county governments would be banned from passing more stringent local ordinances that might add to those protections.
The draft legislation, dated March 19, would also prohibit cities and counties from raising the local minimum wage – sometimes called a "living wage" ordinance – or from passing any labor laws that are stricter than state law.
The legislation would also require single-sex bathrooms in schools and government agencies, with entry restricted to people identified as the appropriate gender on a birth certificate. That provision is in response to an ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte in February to make it legal for transgender people to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.
Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and LGBT advocacy groups said the proposal is the most extreme bill being considered nationwide.
"This bill is unique and extraordinarily offensive even in a year where we have seen state legislatures around the country attempt to outdo each other by introducing even more damaging legislation," said Cathryn Oakley, senior counsel to the Human Rights Campaign. "Fortunately, other states have all rejected those bills. Hopefully, North Carolina will also think better of this extreme and offensive piece of legislation as well."
Republican South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard recently vetoed a similar restroom restriction for students, while Tennessee's Republican-led state House tabled a similar measure Tuesday.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday declined to call lawmakers back to consider the proposed bill, saying that, while he believes the restroom issue must be addressed, the rest of the legislation is too broad to be considered in a special session unlikely to have time to accommodate public input.
House and Senate leaders used a rarely invoked power to call themselves back instead. House Speaker Tim Moore said Tuesday he believes McCrory will sign the proposal.
The General Assembly is slated to convene for special session at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The final version of the bill could change by the time it's made public, expected to be late Wednesday morning.
While the bill doesn't mention protections for people with disabilities, those protections exist in other parts of the law and were left unaffected by this bill, according to its sponsors.