North Carolina is flushing its bathroom bill. What's next?

AP News
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Posted: Mar 30, 2017 3:23 PM
North Carolina is flushing its bathroom bill. What's next?

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's General Assembly passed a measure on Thursday to repeal the "bathroom bill" that has provoked an economic backlash since its hasty enactment a year ago. Republican leaders and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper reached the deal despite strenuous objections from both social conservative and gay rights advocates. Here's a look at the details:

HOUSE BILL 2:

The compromise repeals House Bill 2, arguably making good on Cooper's campaign promise to get rid of the law signed by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, after GOP leaders rushed it through the General Assembly last spring.

HB2 was quickly derided as a "bathroom bill," but reached far beyond public restrooms in North Carolina.

Because the state had no anti-discrimination law before then, HB2 created a new statewide policy prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin or biological sex — while leaving lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people unprotected — in "public accommodations," which include restaurants, hotels and public bathrooms.

HB2 also prohibited any local government from providing additional anti-discrimination protections. This prevented an LGBT ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte from taking effect. The prohibition also banned cities from requiring private employers bidding for local contracts to provide any additional benefits, such as a higher minimum wage, to their workers.

THE COMPROMISE:

If Cooper signs the repeal bill, it would, for now, return North Carolina to how it was before Charlotte passed its ordinance and the legislature responded with HB2.

The revised law repeals the state's directive for transgender people to only use public bathrooms and showers that match their birth gender. This requirement was never backed by criminal penalties or other teeth, but Thursday's change means transgressors would continue to be punished with the laws against trespassing, peeping and indecent exposure that were in effect before and after HB2.

And some wording in the compromise bill appears even more sweeping than HB2 in prohibiting what local governments can require from the private sector.

The new law also makes more explicit than before that state legislators will make the rules on using bathrooms — not agencies, municipalities or universities. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, declined to say whether lawmakers plan to quickly use this authority.

It also would impose a moratorium against local governments adopting or changing any ordinances regulating private employment or public accommodations. That means municipalities couldn't pass establish terms for car-hailing services like Uber, or insist that public contracts include minimum-pay provisions, said Cathryn Oakley, a lawyer for the Human Rights Campaign in Washington.

The delay — until December 2020 — could give time for multiple federal lawsuits over transgender issues to play out.

As for transgender people who need to use a bathroom, they are basically back where things started in North Carolina. Anybody who was born one gender and now identifies as the other can try to use whatever bathroom they want — at their own risk.

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Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Follow her at www.twitter.com/MegKinnardAP and Dalesio at www.twitter.com/emerydalesio