North Carolina Senate President pro tem Phil Berger, right, and Senate Democratic leader Sen. Dan Blue announce a bill to replace the controversial HB2 or “bathroom bill” at the North Carolina General Assembly on Thursday, March 30, 2017. The bill passed the committee and now goes to the full Senate. (Chris Seward /The News & Observer via AP)

Deal to end 'bathroom law' under fire from LGBT people

March 30, 2017 - 11:19 am

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina's top Republican legislators and the Democratic governor say they have a deal to end the state's LGBT "bathroom law," which has brought negative national attention and made it harder to attract businesses and sporting events.

But they'll have to get enough votes in the House and Senate on Thursday to undo the law that is also known as House Bill 2. That could be a challenge because social conservatives would prefer to have HB2 stay on the books. Gay rights groups oppose the replacement measure because they say it would allow discrimination.

Just hours after the deal was announced Wednesday night, a dozen gay rights activists gathered outside the Executive Mansion in Raleigh, where Gov. Roy Cooper hosted Democrats, urging them to support the plan.

Cooper was narrowly elected with LGBT support on a platform that included repealing HB2.

"It's not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation," Cooper said.

The deal passed an early hurdle Thursday morning when it was approved by a Senate committee. Full Senate and House votes were expected later in the day.

The announcement came as the NCAA said North Carolina sites won't be considered for championship events from 2018 to 2022 "absent any change" in House Bill 2, which it views as discrimination. The NCAA said decisions would be made starting this week on events and announced in April. North Carolina cities, schools and other groups have offered more than 130 bids for such events.

The NCAA already removed championship events from the state this year because of the law, which limits LGBT nondiscrimination protections and requires transgender people to use restrooms in schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

HB2 has prompted businesses to halt expansions and entertainers and sports organizations to cancel or move events, including the NBA All-Star game in Charlotte. An Associated Press a href='https://www.apnews.com/fa4528580f3e4a01bb68bcb272f1f0f8/AP-Exclusive:-Pr...'s-LGBT-law:-$3.76B'analysis/a this week found that HB2 already will cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years.

The new proposal would repeal HB2 and leave state legislators in charge of policy on public multi-stall restrooms. Local governments also couldn't pass new nondiscrimination protections for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020. That temporary moratorium, according to GOP House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, would allow time for pending federal litigation over transgender issues to play out.

"Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy," Berger and Moore said in a statement.

It's not clear whether the NCAA would be satisfied by the changes.

Gay rights activists blasted the proposal, saying those who back it aren't allies of the LGBT community. They say only a complete repeal will do.

"At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality," Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin told reporters, adding that consequences could fall on Cooper.

A transgender man who works at the University of North Carolina, Joaquin Carcano, spoke against the deal during the Senate committee meeting.

Carcano said the proposal replaces House Bill 2 with a "new form of violence" against LGBT people and is sacrificing "our lives and our safety for the sake of basketball."

The Republican-controlled legislature passed HB2 a year ago in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use restrooms aligned with their gender identity. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory immediately signed the bill, and it appeared to cost him re-election in November.

HB2 supporters say ordinances like the one in Charlotte make it easy for sexual predators to enter public restrooms designated for the opposite sex. Opponents say that's nonsense and the danger is imagined.

Several potential compromises have failed over the past year, including one during a special session in December that collapsed amid partisan finger-pointing. GOP and Democratic legislators have been in a seemingly endless chase during the past several weeks to cobble together enough votes on various drafts of legislation.

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