Transgender Bathroom Compromise in NC: Charlotte Repeals Ordinance, Legislature Repeals HB2

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. The hotel installed the restroom signage designed by artist Peregrine Honig last month after North Carolina's "bathroom law" gained national attention, positioning the state at the center of a debate over equality, privacy and religious freedom. | (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Drake)

A compromise has been reached in North Carolina's battles over transgender bathroom use. The city of Charlotte will repeal its controversial ordinance and the state government will repeal the law passed in reaction to that ordinance.

North Carolina's controversial law that requires transgender individuals to use state-operated bathrooms consistent with their biological sex will likely be repealed in a special session of the state's legislature on Tuesday.

On Monday, North Carolina's Republican Gov. Pat McCrory called for the state's lawmakers to convene a special session so they can officially repeal the highly controversial H.B. 2, a law that prevents local governments from requiring businesses and other places of public accommodation to allow transgender individuals to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

H.B. 2 was originally passed in response to a discrimination ordinance enacted by the Charlotte City Council that forced all businesses in Charlotte to open up their bathrooms and other changing areas to transgender individuals — a measure that opponents argued would make it easier for sexual predators to gain access to women's and girl's bathrooms.

McCrory and the state lawmakers received national criticism from left-leaning media, corporations and celebrities who pushed back against H.B. 2 and claimed that the law was discriminatory and politicized bathroom usage.

But after the Charlotte City Council voted unanimously on Monday to repeal its discrimination ordinance, McCrory's press secretary, Graham Wilson, issued a statement calling for the repeal of H.B. 2.

"Now that the Charlotte ordinance has been repealed, the expectation of privacy in our showers, bathrooms and locker rooms is restored and protected under previous state law," Wilson said. "Governor McCrory has always publicly advocated a repeal of the overreaching Charlotte ordinance. But those efforts were always blocked by [Charlotte Mayor] Jennifer Roberts, [Attorney General and Governor-elect] Roy Cooper and other Democratic activists."

Cooper, who was quick to take a strong stance against H.B. 2 when it was passed in March and even refused to defend the state in a federal lawsuit filed against the legislation, also issued a statement explaining that leading state lawmakers promised him that they would hold a special special session on Tuesday.

"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, according to the Charlotte Observer. "I hope they will keep their word to me and with the help of Democrats in the legislature, HB2 will be repealed in full."

Cooper assured that a "full repeal will help to bring jobs, sports and entertainment events back and will provide the opportunity for strong LGBT protections in our state."

Cooper has long argued that H.B. 2 is bad for North Carolina's economy. Following the passage of H.B. 2, a number of businesses (PayPal, Deutsche Bank) canceled plans to expand to the state, while the NBA decided to move the 2017 all-star game out of Charlotte and NCAA cancelled plans to hold seven championship events in the state.

Additionally, entertainers like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr canceled scheduled concerts in the state in protest of the law. The touring circus company Cirque du Soleil also cancelled 15 North Carolina tour dates because of the law. 

The Charlotte Observer reports that the Charlotte City Council's vote to repeal its ordinance came after Cooper lobbied council members to repeal the ordinance in exchange for state lawmakers repealing H.B. 2.

Council member Julie Eiselt told the Observer that Cooper had told her that "if we cleaned up our books that the General Assembly was motivated to call a special session to repeal (the law) and we felt this was our best opportunity."

According to the Observer, a similar deal was offered to the council members earlier in the year but was rejected. In May, council members voted against a symbolic repeal of the ordinance. According to ABC 11, the city council's repeal of the transgender ordinance is contingent upon H.B. 2 being repealed by Dec. 31.

"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 continued in her statement. "As promised, Governor McCrory will call a special session."

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith Follow Samuel Smith on Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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