North Carolina passes bill blocking LGBT protections

The North Carolina legislature on Wednesday passed a sweeping bill overturning gay and transgender protections at the local level and requiring students to use public restrooms that correspond to their biological sex.

Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, signed the bill hours later, according to the Associated Press.

State lawmakers pushed the measure in response to a nondiscrimination ordinance adopted in the city of Charlotte that, among other things, allowed people to use the bathroom that matched with their gender identity. Legislators said immediate action was necessary to protect children and women from sexual predators who might pose as transgender to gain access to women’s restrooms.

But gay rights groups called the measure blatantly discriminatory and condemned it as the most extreme bill of its kind in the nation.

“Legislators have gone out of their way to stigmatize and marginalize transgender North Carolinians by pushing ugly and fundamentally untrue stereotypes that are based on fear and ignorance and not supported by the experiences of more than 200 cities with these protections,” Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, said in a statement.

The bill was introduced Wednesday morning as part of a special session called specifically for this purpose. It passed overwhelmingly in the Republican-controlled legislature, but the Democratic minority in the Senate expressed its displeasure over the bill by walking out before the vote, the AP reported.

The effort is the latest attempt this year by state legislatures to halt the expansion of gay and transgender rights in the face of religious opposition or concerns over restroom privacy. Several of these efforts have already failed; South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) recently vetoed a bill that would have required students to use the bathroom that corresponded with their biological sex at birth. A similar bill in Tennessee died in committee this week.

The Georgia state legislature passed a measure earlier this month aimed at shoring up religious liberties, which gay rights groups condemned as discriminatory. In a sign of the sort of opposition these types of bills are provoking, Disney threatened to stop making films in the state, cloud computer firm Salesforce.com warned it will move its business and the National Football League suggested it may pass over Atlanta for future Super Bowls if the governor signs it.

The company Dow Chemical on Wednesday tweeted its opposition to the North Carolina measure.

Dow opposes #NCGA attempt to undermine equality in Charlotte. Let's focus on policies that make #NC stronger and more competitive. – KK

— Dow Public Policy (@DowPolicy) March 23, 2016

Still, the concern over access to women’s restrooms has proven a powerful one. Last fall, voters in Houston repealed an anti-discrimination measure after critics labeled it a “bathroom bill” and raised the specter of sexual predators in women’s restrooms.

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