Repeal of 'bathroom bill' stalled in NC statehouse

The political tug of war over North Carolina's notorious "bathroom bill" heated up Wednesday with efforts to overturn the nine-month-old law stalemated by ongoing partisan bickering.

The law, which dictates which bathroom transgender people must use, has damaged the state's economy and national reputation.

In a special session called by GOP Gov. Pat McCrory, legislators returned to the capitol in Raleigh to vote on a repeal of House Bill 2, which has been blasted by gay-rights groups and sparked job losses and sporting event cancellations.

The repeal vote was expected after the Charlotte City Council eliminated a local antidiscrimination ordinance that expanded protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity in public accommodations. Statehouse Republicans had offered months ago to repeal the state law if Charlotte rescinded the local ordinance, which the council voted to eliminate earlier Wednesday.


Opponents of North Carolina's HB2 law limiting bathroom access for transgender people protest in the gallery above the state's House of Representatives chamber in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Jonathan Drake | Reuters
Opponents of North Carolina's HB2 law limiting bathroom access for transgender people protest in the gallery above the state's House of Representatives chamber in Raleigh, North Carolina.

But the effort to repeal the state law got bogged down Wednesday afternoon amid concerns among some GOP lawmakers that another city might pass its own antidiscrimination ordinance once the state law is repealed.

"No economic, political or ideological pressure can convince me that what is wrong is right," Lt. Gov. Dan Forest said in a statement summarizing opposition to repeal. "It will always be wrong for men to have access to women's showers and bathrooms."

Failure to overturn the law would likely continue to hurt the state's reputation and spur further cancellations of high-profile events that have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenues. The list includes several NCAA tournaments and concerts. Earlier this year, PayPal announced it had cancelled a planned operations center in Charlotte because of HB2.

Over the longer term, the "bathroom bill" could cost the state nearly $5 billion a year, according a tally earlier this from the Williams Institute at UCLA law school.

"The repeal of HB2 would not only reverse the threat to over $5 billion in economic activity for the state, but would also begin to bring North Carolina some of the economic advantages that come when a state embraces diversity and its LGBT citizens," said Christy Mallory, a co-author of the new report.

But the move to rescind the law appeared to stall after some statehouse Republicans weren't convinced the Charlotte ordinance had been fully repealed. The action by the Charlotte council was contingent on HB2's repeal by Dec. 31.

"On a difficult issue where the parties don't have a lot of trust, we got thrown a curveball by the less than full repeal by Charlotte," Republican repeal supporter Rep. Chuck McGrady tweeted early Wednesday.

The special session was intended to resolve the bitter debate over the enactment of HB2 before the legislature reconvenes next month. But GOP lawmakers appeared to be in no rush to wrap up the repeal debate.

"There is no extraordinary circumstance," said Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash, during a brief debate over session procedures, "other than the extraordinary hubris of a city council telling us we have to act by a certain date."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)