North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) took a big step backwards on LGBT rights on Wednesday evening by signing House Bill 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which forbids transgender people from using public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities.
According to the bill, "Public agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex." The legislature defines a person's biological sex as what is listed on his or her birth certificate. The bill will therefore not affect transgender people who are able to update their birth certificates to reflect the gender they identify with.
Following the House's vote, which passed the bill 82-26, Democratic members of the Senate walked out of the session in protest. The remaining members voted to pass the bill 32-0.
This statewide ruling came about to reverse recent action taken in the city of Charlotte, which just passed a measure granting transgender people the right to use the bathroom designated for their appropriate gender. Because Charlotte's ordinance would have gone into effect April 1, the General Assembly (controlled by the Republicans) claims Wednesday's session — which cost $42,000 to hold — was necessary for the safety of North Carolina residents.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts issued a statement Wednesday following the ruling, calling the General Assembly "on the wrong side of progress."
"I am appalled with the General Assembly's actions today," she stated. "It has passed a bill that is worse than what we have seen in Indiana and Georgia and other states. This legislation is literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country. It sanctions discrimination against the LGBT community."
She also "urge[d] the governor to veto [the] bill."
In Indiana, Senate Bill 35 makes it a Class A Misdemeanor for transgender people to use the bathroom for the gender they identify as. This could result in a year in jail and $5,000 in fines. Meanwhile, Georgia lawmakers have numerous "religious freedom" bills under consideration that would allow businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT people.
But Gov. McCrory tweeted Wednesday night defending his signage of the bill.
Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women's bathroom/locker room for instance. That's why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) March 24, 2016
The state's House Speaker Tim Moore claims the bill is about "privacy."
"The way the ordinance was written by City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are — even if he was a man," Moore said. "We were concerned. Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy."
While proponents for this bill and similar ones that have come before it insist these measures are for the safety of cisgender people, however, statistics have repeatedly proven that the risk of a transgender person being assaulted in a bathroom is actually much greater than that of a transgender person being the perpetrator in a bathroom assault.
But the legislature goes further than just restrooms, according to Rep. Rodney Moore (D-Charlotte).
"This is really not about bathrooms," he said. "This is about fear."
State Rep. Dean Arp (R-Monroe) called the bill "common sense"; however, Executive Director of Equality NC Chris Sgro said common sense would be the exact opposite.
"Senator Berger and Speaker Moore should be ashamed of misleading their members to vote for the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation, which is sweeping beyond comprehension," Sgro said. "Protections for LGBT people against discrimination are common sense. This special session, where Berger and Moore rammed through hastily-crafted legislation, was a farce of public policy."
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a group dedicated to LGBT rights, planned a rally in protest for Thursday. HRC President Chad Griffin called the signing of the bill "a direct attack on the rights, well-being and dignity of hundreds of thousands of LGBT North Carolinians and visitors to the state."