Politics & Government

NC lawmakers convening in attempt to void Charlotte’s LGBT ordinance

Lt. Gov. Dan Forest.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. cliddy@newsobserver.com

North Carolina legislative leaders announced Monday that they’ll convene a special legislative session Wednesday to deal with Charlotte’s controversial LGBT ordinance.

Lawmakers acted on their own after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory declined to call a special session, saying he believes legislators are considering a measure that goes far beyond the Charlotte ordinance.

But Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who oversees the Senate, and House Speaker Tim Moore, both Republicans, invoked a seldom-used constitutional provision to call themselves into session at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

“We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state,” Forest and Moore said in a joint statement.

Lawmakers are expected to block the Charlotte ordinance, which takes effect April 1.

A special session is expected to cost $42,000 a day. The General Assembly was already scheduled to reconvene for its so-called short session on April 25.

The Charlotte ordinance, passed last month by City Council, would extend protections for the LGBT community. The most contentious provision would allow transgender people to use either a men’s or women’s bathroom, depending on the gender with which they identify.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, a Democrat, called the special session “a waste of taxpayer money.”

“The assembly should focus on teacher pay, not taking away rights,” she tweeted.

Shortly after the ordinance passed, Moore of Kings Mountain, pledged that lawmakers would do what was necessary “to correct this radical course.”

On Monday, he said they’ve been advised to deal with the ordinance before it takes effect.

“There seems to be a concern among our members that we need to deal with this prior to the effective date,” he told the Observer.

The city’s existing nondiscrimination ordinance covers race, age, gender and religion, among other characteristics. It covers places of public accommodation, such as stores, restaurants and hotels, as well as taxicabs and limousines.

When the new ordinance takes effect, a baker would no longer be able to refuse to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Other vendors would have to cater LGBT events, even if it is against their religious beliefs.

The city couldn’t revoke a business license if someone violated the ordinance. But it could seek an injunction that would force a business to comply.

It was unclear exactly what lawmakers will vote on. But some have said they want to make sure other cities don’t pass similar ordinances.

It was the possibility that a measure could go further than the bathroom provision that prompted McCrory to refuse to call a special session.

In an email to lawmakers, Fred Steen, McCrory’s legislative liaison, said the governor would support a special session to stop the “extreme … ordinance that would threaten an individual’s basic expectation of privacy.”

“However, it is our understanding that the proposal being considered goes beyond the scope of the bathroom issue and includes unrelated subject areas,” Steen wrote. “Anything above and beyond the bathroom (issue) … should be dealt with during the full legislative session.”

Moore downplayed the concerns. “I don't believe there’s reason for concern,” he said. “This bill is drawn as narrowly as possible to deal with the issues at hand. …

“The ordinance is a very far-reaching and radical ordinance.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill

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