North Carolina governor tries again to repeal transgender bathroom law

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 14, 2017 1:53 PM

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) - North Carolina's Democratic governor on Tuesday made his latest attempt at convincing Republican legislators to repeal a law that restricts bathroom access for transgender people, arguing action was needed before the state suffers more economic hits.

The legislation proposed by Governor Roy Cooper drew immediate criticism, however, with supporters of the law saying it ignored privacy concerns and opponents saying it included unnecessary concessions.

Cooper announced his plan a week after a local sports official said the law known as House Bill 2 could cost North Carolina six years of NCAA championship events due to concerns about discrimination.

"Now the situation is urgent," Cooper said at a news conference in Raleigh. "This proposal will begin to repair the damage to North Carolina's reputation."

Corporations, entertainers and conventions boycotted the state after its Republican-controlled legislature adopted a law last March that bars transgender people from using government-run restrooms that match their gender identity and limits local nondiscrimination protections.

The NCAA moved championship events awarded to North Carolina for the current academic year and the National Basketball Association relocated its 2017 All-Star Game in response to the law, the only of its kind in the United States.

Democrats and Republicans blamed one another for a failed repeal bid during a one-day special legislative session in December.

Cooper, who took office in January after an election dominated by debate over the law, called on Tuesday for a full repeal and harsher penalties for crimes committed in bathrooms and dressing rooms.

His proposal also would require local governments to provide 30 days notice to state lawmakers before voting on nondiscrimination ordinances, ensuring an opportunity for input, he said.

Such an ordinance in Charlotte prompted the legislature to act last year, with Republican lawmakers warning the state's largest city was creating a public safety issue by giving men access to women's bathrooms.

Those concerns remain, Senate leader Phil Berger's office said.

"This proposal does nothing to address the basic privacy concerns of women and young girls who do not feel comfortable using the bathroom (or) undressing and showering in the presence of men," Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth said in a statement.

Equality advocates said there was no evidence current penalties for sex crimes in restrooms were insufficient.

"We all know that transgender people do not pose a public safety risk and should be protected from discrimination, not made the targets of it as H.B. 2 does," said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro, who called Cooper's proposal "unnecessary."

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Alan Crosby)