RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina General Assembly will reconvene Wednesday to take up legislation that would attempt to override Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which also addresses transgender people and restrooms, legislative leaders announced Monday night.
Social conservatives and many Republican lawmakers say Charlotte went too far with the ordinance, which was approved last month but takes effect April 1. In particular, they’re upset because it allows transgender people to use restrooms that align with their gender identity, and they say sexual predators will use it as pretense to enter women’s bathrooms.
House Speaker Tim Moore and GOP Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, the Senate’s presiding officer, said they have obtained formal support from three-fifths of the lawmakers in both the House and Senate that the state constitution requires for the legislature to reconvene itself. Otherwise, their next regular session was set for April 25.
“We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state,” Forest and Moore said in a release.
Moore said the session will start at 10 a.m. and should last one day. Each day the General Assembly meets in session costs the state $42,000. Legislative leaders have said they would like to pass legislation that would pre-empt other local governments from passing similar rules in the future, but it could cover more ground.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who has also criticized the ordinance, would be asked to sign any bill coming to his desk. The General Assembly announced the session shortly after a key McCrory aide told legislators the governor would not call the session himself because of concerns it would cover “unrelated subject areas” beyond the bathroom issue.
In a phone interview Monday night, Moore, R-Cleveland, declined to provide details of the legislation, saying he first wanted to give other House members the chance to review it.
“It may have a few other things in it, but I don’t think it’s as big as what some have indicated,” Moore said.
Gay-rights groups and many Charlotte leaders want the ordinance preserved, saying it provides dignity and protection to transgender people often subject to intimidation. The ordinance is otherwise designed to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression at hotels, restaurants and other public accommodations.
Chris Sgro with Equality North Carolina called the decision to convene an “act of political theatre” and said that more than 200 cities have similar protections like Charlotte.
“In none of these cities have these protections created a public safety risk, to indicate otherwise is a lie,” Sgro said in an email, adding that McCrory “must stand up and be what we expect from an executive and reject any legislation that comes out of this special session.”
Earlier Monday, about 100 people opposed to the ordinance gathered at the old Capitol building urging the legislature and governor to repeal Charlotte’s ordinance now. Monday night, Tami Fitzgerald with the North Carolina Values Coalition praised Moore, Forest and Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, “for listening to the voice of their constituents” and said in a release “we look forward” to McCrory signing the final legislation.
McCrory’s office said the governor supported a special session that was limited to bathroom and locker room issues in the ordinance. McCrory has said people expect others in their restroom or locker room to have the same anatomy as they do and that local governments statewide should be prevented from altering that.
In an email to General Assembly members late Monday afternoon, McCrory chief legislative liaison Fred Steen said other issues “beyond the scope of the bathroom issue” should be dealt with during the regular work session “to allow public hearings and a broader discussion.”