Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina and Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper say they have reached an agreement to end the state's so-called "bathroom bill." They hope the new resolution will drive away negative national attention and remove obstacles to expanding businesses and attracting sporting events.
The proposal is a replacement measure for the March 2016 law known as House Bill 2. Social conservatives in the General Assembly would prefer to have HB2 stay on the books. Gay rights groups oppose the replacement measure because it would still restrict LGBT discrimination protections.
Cooper, who was elected governor last November with support from LGBT forces and on a platform that included a complete repeal of HB2, said in a release that he supported the compromise unveiled Wednesday shortly before midnight by GOP lawmakers.
"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," Cooper said.
The late-night announcement came as the NCAA said North Carolina sites won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change" in House Bill 2, which it views as discrimination. The NCAA said decisions would be made starting this week on events. North Carolina cities, schools, and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.
The NCAA already removed championship events from the state this year because of the law, which limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.
HB2 has prompted some businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press analysis this week found that HB2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.
The new proposal would repeal HB2 but would leave state legislators in charge of policy on public multi-stall restrooms. Local governments also couldn't pass ordinances extending nondiscrimination protections covering categories like sexual orientation and gender identity in private employment and in places such as hotels and restaurants until December 2020. That temporary moratorium, according to GOP House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.
"Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a statement. It's not clear whether the NCAA would be satisfied by the changes.
Responding before Wednesday night's announcement to anticipated provisions in the legislation, top national and state gay rights activists blasted the proposal and said those who back Thursday's measure aren't allies of the LGBT community. Only a complete repeal, with nothing else, will do, they say.
"At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters, adding that consequences could fall on Cooper, whom gay rights activists backed in the election, for supporting a "dirty deal."
The Republican-controlled legislature passed HB2 in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restroom aligned with their gender identity. HB2 supporters say ordinances like the one in Charlotte make it easy for sexual predators to enter public restrooms designated for the opposite sex. Cooper narrowly defeated GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law.