N.C. city's vote to expand transgender rights draws state opposition

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 23, 2016 2:02 PM

By Colleen Jenkins

(Reuters) - A top North Carolina lawmaker vowed on Tuesday to correct the “radical course” taken by leaders in Charlotte, the state's largest city, after they voted to allow transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their gender identity.

The Charlotte City Council expanded the city's nondiscrimination ordinance late on Monday to add protections for marital and familial status, sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity.

A provision that permits bathroom choice based on gender identity drew opposition ahead of the 7-4 vote from Christian evangelist Franklin Graham and North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte.

State House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore, a Republican, said he would consider legislation to block the measure, which some critics fear would allow sexual predators to gain access to women's bathrooms.

“The Charlotte City Council has gone against all common sense and has created a major public safety issue by opening all bathrooms and changing rooms to the general public,” Moore said in a statement.

"I join my conservative colleagues and Governor McCrory in exploring legislative intervention to correct this radical course," he added.

Civil rights groups rejected the public safety concerns as overblown. They praised the council for passing what they said was the first ordinance in the state to prohibit discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people in public accommodations, including restaurants, hotels and taxis.

Charlotte was one of the largest U.S. cities without a law explicitly protecting the LGBT community from discrimination, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a civil rights group based in Washington. The revised law takes effect on April 1.

"Charlotte has full authority to enact this ordinance, and we hope the General Assembly will respect this local government’s decision to protect its residents and visitors from discrimination," said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

Voters in Houston, the fourth most populous U.S. city, last fall rejected a similar measure that would have banned discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation and let transgender men and women use bathrooms that corresponded with their gender identity.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem, N.C.)