Politics & Government

Does the HB2 compromise fix the state’s bathroom dilemma? Maybe not.

Questions remain about whether the current House Bill 2 compromise be enough to bring back the NCAA and other big events?
Questions remain about whether the current House Bill 2 compromise be enough to bring back the NCAA and other big events? AP

Will the House Bill 2 compromise be enough to bring back the NCAA and other big events?

On one hand, the repeal removes perhaps the most-criticized part of HB2, which required people in government buildings to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate. That meant that a transgender man with a beard would be required to use the women’s restroom in the Charlotte Convention Center, unless the individual’s birth certificate had been changed.

But the bill adds new language – and restrictions – about bathrooms.

While it removes the birth certificate requirement, the bill says state and local governments are “preempted from regulation of access to multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities, except in accordance with an act of the General Assembly.”

The new language applies to any new regulation of bathrooms anywhere, including private business. Does it apply to governments’ own buildings as well?

Could the Charlotte Convention Center or the city-owned Spectrum Center have an official policy stating people can use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity?

It’s unclear.

“What kind of power do the convention centers and these state-owned facilities have?” asked Cathryn Oakley of the Human Rights Campaign, which opposes HB2 as well as the compromise. “There is a lot of ambiguity there. It’s an open question about whether those folks can have nondiscrimination policies inside their buildings.”

Mara Keisling of the National Center for Transgender Equity said she’s concerned that convention centers couldn’t have an official policy in place for transgender guests.

“It seems to not allow convention centers to protect their customers and to protect their residents,” she said.

The NCAA and other events have for years come to cities that didn’t have official policies for transgender individuals. Last year’s men’s basketball Final Four was in Houston, a city where voters rejected a local ordinance that would have allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

But in the wake of Houston and HB2 in North Carolina, the NCAA issued new rules last year for host cities wishing to bid on championships. The NCAA appeared to want host cities to clearly affirm how they would be “inclusive.”

“Currently awarded sites must report how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination, plus safeguards the dignity of everyone involved in the event,” the NCAA said last April in announcing the change. “The information must be reported to the Board of Governors Ad Hoc Committee to Promote Cultural Diversity and Equity, and full implementation is expected during the current bidding process.’’

Would Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh or any other city be able to tell the NCAA that transgender fans or athletes could use the bathroom that matches their gender identity?

The city of Charlotte declined to comment Thursday morning.

The new law also prohibits cities and towns from enacting their own nondiscrimination policies until 2020.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

  Comments