Politics & Government

Legislature could return this week to address Charlotte transgender bathroom issue

Opponents want lawmakers to block adopted ordinance

Opponents of Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance Friday implored Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to call a special session to repeal all or part of new legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals
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Opponents of Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance Friday implored Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to call a special session to repeal all or part of new legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said Saturday that he hopes to call a special legislative session this week on a controversial Charlotte ordinance on transgender bathroom use.

The Charlotte City Council ordinance will allow transgender people to use the bathroom and locker room facilities of the gender with which they identify. The provision is part of a larger nondiscrimination ordinance that goes into effect April 1.

Opponents said the ordinance effectively allows men to use women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, and they said it will endanger public safety and possibly lead to sexual assaults in bathrooms. Moore said the safety concerns mean that legislators can’t wait until their regular session begins on April 25.

“We’re having discussions with the governor, and I’m having discussions with Sen. Berger about a potential special session this coming week,” Moore said Saturday. “I would expect it would be toward the end of this coming week.”

Under state law, the House speaker and Senate leader can call a special session if three-fifths of the legislators in both chambers support the move. Moore said he’s already met that requirement in the House and that “the House is ready to come into session.”

A special session would cost $42,000 a day.

Moore said he has sent a draft bill to House Republicans that would overturn the Charlotte bathroom provision. He declined to provide more details of the bill. “I’m going to wait until the full caucus has the opportunity to review the legislation,” he said.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s spokesman and Senate leader Phil Berger could not be immediately reached Saturday afternoon. But the Senate’s deputy president pro tem, Republican Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, said he hasn’t yet received any formal inquiry from Berger about the Senate’s willingness to schedule a special session.

“I’m not sure that a poll has been taken of the Senate,” Pate said, adding that he thinks a special session is a good idea.

Earlier this month, Berger appointed a committee of 10 senators and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to consider ways to overturn the Charlotte ordinance. He also called on attorney general Roy Cooper, a Democrat who’s running against McCrory, to overturn it himself.

On Friday, opponents of the ordinance held a rally in Charlotte to demand that legislators return to Raleigh and “deal with it now.”

Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group that supports the ordinance, said the legislature should focus on more important priorities.

“Equality NC is expressing concern that the state’s political leadership continues to focus all its time and energy on creating legislation to usurp local control from town and cities,” Equality executive director Chris Sgro said in a recent news release. “These resources would be better spent to support our teachers, to make education a priority in this state again.”

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