North Carolina retools controversial transgender bathroom bill

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at 21C Museum Hotel. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Winston-Salem, NC, United States Mar 30, 2017, 05.02 PM (IST)

North Carolina's Senate on Thursday approved a bill to retool a law banning transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identities, a measure that had triggered boycotts by companies and sports leagues.

However, the measure was roundly criticized by civil rights advocates, and it was not immediately clear if businesses and the sports leagues would reverse their boycotts of the Southern state.

Late on Wednesday, leaders of the Republican-dominated state Senate and House of Representatives said that they had reached a compromise with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper to scrap the year-old law, the only one of its kind in the United States.

The announcement came days after the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) said it would not award the state potentially lucrative hosting honors for its championship events through 2022 unless there were changes to the law.

On Thursday morning, after a brief floor debate, the state Senate on second reading approved 32-16 the measure that would repeal the law known as House Bill 2, popularly known as HB2. However, new provisions in the legislation would still ban local municipalities, public schools and others from regulating bathroom access.

The deal also blocks North Carolina cities for nearly four years from enacting their own regulations for job and restroom protections to groups classified as vulnerable.

The measure next moves to the state House for a vote. If the lower chamber approves it, it will go to Cooper, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people said the new version would allow discrimination to continue.

“Lawmakers must reject this disgraceful backroom deal that uses the rights of LGBT people as a bargaining chip,” said Sarah Gillooly, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.

The NCAA did not immediately comment.

In the debate on the Senate floor, two senators spoke in favor of the compromise, while another, Republican state Senator Dan Bishop, voiced strong opposition.

Bishop said that the bill, at best, delayed action. "At worst, it is a betrayal of principle".