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N.C. to repeal controversial transgender bathroom law

HB2 has drawn severe political and economic trouble since its passage in March.

By Doug G. Ware

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Less than a year after he signed North Carolina's controversial House Bill 2 into law -- which required people to use public restrooms matching their birth gender -- Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday called for a special legislative session to junk it.

McCrory has been an ardent supporter of the law since its passage in March -- legislation that sparked a sustained national outcry, widespread corporate blowback, and a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice.

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The lame duck Republican governor officially reversed course on Monday after a surprise move by the Charlotte City Council to scrap its nondiscrimination ordinance that initiated HB2 in the first place -- a city law that barred discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodations.

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Republican leaders, feeling that Charlotte Ordinance 7056 went too far in granting transgender freedom in restrooms, created the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act to block it.

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With the ordinance now repealed, support and the perceived need for HB2 -- known colloquially as the "bathroom bill" -- disappeared.

"Gov. McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance," gubernatorial spokesman Graham Wilson said Monday, accusing Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and Gov.-elect Roy Cooper of blocking prior attempts by McCrory to repeal HB2.

"This sudden reversal with little notice after the gubernatorial election sadly proves this entire issue originated by the political left was all about politics and winning the governor's race at the expense of Charlotte and our entire state," Wilson added. "As promised, Gov. McCrory will call a special session."

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"Senate Leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore assured me that as a result of Charlotte's vote, a special session will be called for Tuesday to repeal HB 2 in full," Cooper said Monday after the council voted 10-0 to scrap the nondiscrimination ordinance. "I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the Legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full."

Berger and Moore, however, disputed the Democratic governor-elect's assertion that he got the ball rolling to call the general assembly back for the special session -- and said Cooper's remarks only reflect the Democrats' political agenda.

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"Roy Cooper is not telling the truth about the Legislature committing to call itself into session -- we've always said that was Gov. McCrory's decision, and if he calls us back, we will be prepared to act. For Cooper to say otherwise is a dishonest and disingenuous attempt to take credit," they said.

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"Roy Cooper and Jennifer Roberts proved what we said was the case all along: their efforts to force men into women's bathrooms and shower facilities was a political stunt to drive out-of-state money into the governor's race. For months, we've said if Charlotte would repeal its bathroom ordinance that created the problem, we would take up the repeal of HB2."

Although it favored the Charlotte law, the ACLU of North Carolina indicated Monday that it is more important to get rid of HB2.

"HB2 was an unprecedented attack on the LGBT community, in particular against transgender people, and we are encouraged that its days are numbered," Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement. "It is imperative that the General Assembly hold up their end of the deal and repeal HB2 in full without delay. This will be an important step for North Carolinians to move forward, but it never should have come at the cost of protections for LGBT people living in Charlotte."

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"LGBT rights aren't a bargaining chip. Charlotte shouldn't have had to repeal its ordinance in exchange for HB2 to be repealed," Simone Bell, the Southern Regional Director for Lambda Legal, added. "LGBT people in North Carolina still need protection from discrimination. The right action is for the North Carolina Legislature to pass a statewide comprehensive civil rights bill that includes full protections for LGBT people."

Sunday night, Cooper lobbied members of the city council to repeal the ordinance. On Monday, Roberts said scrapping it "should in no way be viewed as a compromise of our principles or commitment to nondiscrimination."

HB2 has brought substantial political and economic trouble to the state of North Carolina since March. Among the corporate backlash spurred by the bill, the NBA moved February's all-star game from Charlotte to New Orleans.

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