McCrory seeks changes to restroom bill
Transgenderism | Executive order requests revocation of lawsuit provision and makes sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 4/12/16, 05:17 pm
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory attempted today to respond to backlash against his state with an executive order clarifying a controversial law about public restrooms, privacy, and discrimination.
Executive Order 93 affirmed most of the provisions of HB2, including one that protects public establishments from being forced to allow biological males and females to have access to restrooms and locker rooms of the gender with which they identify. But McCrory also called for notable changes to address concerns about possible discrimination against LGBT people in the state, including expanding the state’s employment policy to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes and overturning limits on employee lawsuits established in HB2.
“North Carolina proudly welcomes all people to live, work, and visit our great state,” McCrory said in a video message announcing the executive order. “After listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion, and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina.”
Republican Philip Berger, the president pro tempore of the North Carolina Senate, praised McCrory’s order but expressed doubt it would quell the law’s detractors.
“Gov. McCrory just put to rest the left’s lies about HB2 and proved it allows private and public employers, non-profits and churches the ability to adopt nondiscrimination policies that are stronger than state and federal law,” Berger said in a statement posted to Facebook, adding that the law’s liberal opponents “will never stop trashing North Carolina until they achieve their goal of allowing any man into any women’s bathroom or locker room at any time simply by claiming to feel like a woman.”
McCrory’s executive order addressed the right of employees to bring discrimination claims against employers in state court, a prickly legal issue raised in HB2 but rarely mentioned in media coverage, which focused mostly on the bill’s rules about single-sex restrooms in public buildings and schools. One sentence in HB2 eliminated the ability of employees to sue their bosses for discrimination on any grounds in state court, a right North Carolinians—and residents of most other states—had before the bill passed. Only legislators can change that provision in the bill, but McCrory said he has the authority to make the protected classes distinction without lawmakers’ approval.
Two attorneys who have represented North Carolina Republican legislators told The Charlotte Observer they supported the change because funneling discrimination suits to federal court simplifies the process for employees and employers. But neither of them knew why or how the language was included in the bill, begging the question of whether legislators meant to make such a broad change. Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte, HB2’s main sponsor, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
McCrory’s response to negative feedback about HB2 echoed the actions of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence a year ago, when LGBT activists mounted a nationwide campaign against his state for instituting a law protecting the rights of people who might be asked to violate their sincere religious beliefs by participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies. North Carolina’s law addressed a different area of public conduct—restroom usage—but in both cases the governors took steps to affirm LGBT rights after backlash from advocates and businesses that called their newly enacted laws discriminatory.
Since HB2’s passage on March 23, businesses, other state governors, and celebrities have pressured North Carolina to repeal the law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others filed suit against the state in federal court.
Whether McCrory’s executive order will appease those critics remains to be seen. Sarah Preston, the North Carolina director for the ACLU, called the executive order a “poor attempt to save face.”
“Efforts to divide the LGBT community by extending limited protections but leaving in place the rules mandating discrimination against the transgender community will only strengthen our resolve to fight back,” Preston said.