The governor of the southern US state has signed a measure scaling back a bill that restricted which restrooms transgender people can use. LGBT rights groups have said the decision does not go far enough.
North Carolina repealed key components of its controversial House Bill 2 (HB2), which required transgender people use the bathroom that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificate. House Bill 142 (HB142), which was passed Thursday, removed this restriction.
"For over a year now, House Bill 2 has been a dark cloud hanging over our great state," governor Roy Cooper said before signing the repeal bill. "It has stained our reputation, it has discriminated against our people, and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities."
HB142 passed through the Republican majority House of Representatives 70-48 and Senate 32-16 before it was signed by Cooper. Cooper, a Democrat, made repealing HB2 a campaign promise while running for governor against incumbent Pat McRory, a Republican. McCrory signed HB2, commonly referred to as the "bathroom bill," into law in April 2016.
HB2 applied to government buildings, which included courts and schools. Private entities could determine their own bathroom policies. Supporters of HB2 said the law was enacted to preserve privacy and guard against sexual predators in the bathroom. Opponents strongly disagreed with the notions.
LGBT and human rights groups were quick to dismiss HB142, saying the new law does not do enough to protect transgender people from discrimination.
HB2 invalidated local ordinances that protect gay or transgender people from discrimination at work in North Carolina. HB142 states local governments cannot enact anti-discrimination laws until December 2020. Republican leaders said this would allow pending federal litigation on transgender rights to play out.
James Esseks, director of the ACLU LGBT project said HB142 was "not a repeal of HB2. Instead, they're enforcing the worst aspects of the law," in a statement.
Cathryn Oakley, the senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign said lawmakers supporting HB142 were "no ally of LGBTQ people."
Governor Cooper himself was not completely satisfied with HB142, saying "we've got more to do." Cooper added he preferred a complete repeal of HB2.
Big events, business, may come back
North Carolina hopes the passage of HB142 may bring back some major sporting events, businesses and musicians that boycotted the state after the "bathroom bill" was passed.
HB2 prompted Deutsche Bank and PayPal Holdings halt expansion plans in the state, and an Associated Press analysis released this week stated the bill would cost North Carolina more than $3.76 billion (3.5 billion euros) in lost business over 12 years.
After HB2 was passed, rock musician Bruce Springsteen immediately cancelled his performance in Greensboro two days before he was slated to play there. Other artists who refused to perform in North Carolina due to the bill include Blue Man Group, Pearl Jam and former Beatle Ringo Starr.
None of the aforementioned musicians have made an official statement regarding HB142, but Bruce Springsteen guitarist Steven Van Zandt tweeted, "it ain't over until the LGBT community and the ACLU say it's over."
'Money and basketball'
HB2 also caused many sporting events to move outside the state. The 2017 NBA All Star Game was originally planned to take place in Charlotte, the most populous city in North Carolina, but was moved to New Orleans after HB2 was passed.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body for intercollegiate athletics in the US, previously said North Carolina would not be considered for future championship events unless HB2 was repealed. The NCAA is determining hosts for championships for 2018-2022 this week, with decisions expected in April. The NCAA did not immediately comment.
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a major intercollegiate athletic conference with headquarters in the state, moved its neutral site championships out of North Carolina for the 2016-2017 academic year because of HB2. There are four universities in the ACC that are based in North Carolina.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford issued a statement Thursday saying the presidents of the conference's universities would "reopen the discussion" on holding neutral site championships in North Carolina.
But some HB2 supporters accused fellow lawmakers of caving to pressure from college basketball.
"If we could have props in here, I'd take a basketball covered in money and roll it down the middle aisle there." said Republican Rep. Carl Ford. "Because that's what this is about: money and basketball. My family is not for sale. My constituents are not for sale," he said.
kbd/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)