NC’s ban on local nondiscrimination ordinances expires

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A provision of the law that repealed House Bill 2 (known as the bathroom bill) expired Tuesday, as advocates for LGBTQ rights urged local communities to adopt new protections.

In 2017, the bill to repeal HB2 barred local governments from enacting or amending ordinances regulating private businesses and public accommodations until Dec. 1, 2020.

“It’s the first step because we can pass much-needed non-discrimination protections in every walk of life for the LGBTQ community: in health care, in housing, credit and in public accommodations,” said Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality NC.

She said the group has been reaching out to local elected officials across North Carolina in advance of this provision ending, but it’s unclear what steps cities and counties may take.

“It is not surprising that the cities that want to move in this direction to create these protections would be a little bit reticent to show their hand,” said Johnson. “We’re urging LGBTQ+ people and our allies to voice the need for these measures.”

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, said her organization and other groups wrote to city and county leaders across the state last week urging them not to adopt new ordinances. She said communities that do could face lawsuits.

“It seems to have worked well over the last two-and-a-half years. And, so I think it’s a good, neutral position that the state has taken. So, I hope they’ll make that permanent,” she said. “My hope and my prayer is that the cities and counties across our state will not enact these oppressive ordinances that are really a Trojan horse to keep people of faith from practicing their religious beliefs.”

In 2016, Charlotte city leaders passed an ordinance allowing people to use the restroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

State lawmakers responded to that by passing HB2, which had a variety of provisions but became most well-known for the requirement that people use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender on their birth certificate.

Over the following year, various performers canceled events in the state in protest, some businesses scrapped plans to move or expand in the state and some major sporting events were moved as well.

HB142, which replaced HB2, still left regulation of “multiple-occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities” to the General Assembly.

“I hope that we don’t fall into another HB2/HB142 debacle for the state because it’s, frankly, embarrassing,” said Johnson.

Fitzgerald called on the General Assembly to make the provisions of the repeal bill permanent when lawmakers reconvene in January.

“I would expect Gov. Cooper to sign a bill like that because he negotiated this compromise. It’s his compromise,” she said.

Equality NC and other groups planned to host a virtual event Tuesday night to mobilize people to contact their local officials about adopting non-discrimination ordinances.

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