The latest in a string of HB 2 repeal bills was filed in the state House on Wednesday, but HB 186 has a new twist to it: Both Republicans and Democrats sponsor the bill.
The bill, entitled, Repeal HB 2/State Nondiscrimination Policies, would repeal HB 2, often called the bathroom bill. That measure passed the General Assembly nearly a year ago in special session after the Charlotte City Council approved an ordinance requiring that restrooms and changing facilities in public and private buildings alike allow people to use the facility that corresponds to their chosen gender, not their biological sex.
Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) filed the bill along with fellow Republican Rep. Ted Davis (R-New Hanover) and Democrats Rep. Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland) and Rep. Ken Goodman (D-Hoke).
At a press conference announcing the bill, McGrady called the legislation a starting point to move toward removing HB 2, which has stirred controversy since its passage.
“This is not a take-it-or-leave-it bill, this is the best starting point we’ve had up until now. It’s a bill that I view as sort of a bipartisan path forward,” McGrady said. “We’ve got to forget about special interest groups on the right and the left, and do what’s right for North Carolina.”
The bill would repeal HB 2 and give the state the preemptive power of regulating access to changing facilities and places of public accommodation such as public restrooms and showers.
For those concerned that Charlotte could just go back and pass the same ordinance it approved last February, or a similar one, the legislation would take away a city’s ability to make policies regarding access to any changing facilities or places of public accommodation except for those it directly controls.
For example, a recreation center owned by a city could be regulated in a way that allowed for transgendered people to choose which facility to use, but a privately operated gym would not be subject to that regulation.
The legislation applies only to municipalities, not county governments, and the ordinances would only be effective in the actual city limits and not in the extraterritorial jurisdictions of the cities.
And if the citizens of that municipality don’t agree with the relevant ordinances a municipal government passes, the proposed House measure would establish a 90-day window for citizens to gather a petition with signatures representing 10 percent of the voting public from the last municipal election to force a referendum on the new ordinance.
The bill would also rework state nondiscrimination law to protect people in employment, housing and in public colleges on the classes of race, sex, national origin, citizenship, religion, age, veteran status, genetic information, pregnancy, handicaps and disability.
A large portion of the bill is devoted to increasing the severity of many sexually motivated crimes, from rape to peeping to stalking, by one level above their current severity if the crime is committed in a changing facility or a place of public accommodation.
Crimes included in the legislation are second-degree forcible rape, second-degree forcible sexual offense, indecent exposure, peeping, peeping with a camera, indecent liberties with a child, indecent liberties with a student, stalking and misdemeanor assaults, batteries and affrays (disturbing the peace by fighting in a public place).
By Thursday afternoon the bill had 14 additional cosponsors, including Democrats and Republicans, but had not yet been placed in committee.
The sections of the bill increasing the severity of crimes committed in changing facilities or places of public accommodation would go into force after the law was passed; the remaining sections would become active Dec. 1, 2017.
Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, says her organization opposes the bill, as it repeals HB 2, without puting new bathroom protections in place, as she revealed in an interview on the What Matters in North Carolina show in Thursday.
“This is no compromise,” she said. “Really it’s a capitulation and we are urging lawmakers to stand behind HB 2 because really it is the only way to ensure that privacy, dignity and decency rule in North Carolina.”
Fitzgerald said that the legislature tried to sell the bill as a return to the way things were before HB 2, but she disagrees.
“It repeals the entire bathroom part of HB 2 and says that the state preempts the local governments in terms of setting bathroom policy, but then it doesn’t set a bathroom policy,” she said. “So that part of it may seem to be status quo but the other part is concerning because they actually give the cities the right to pass their own bathroom policy in city-owned buildings.”
Fitzgerald said that it is time to move on from talk about repealing HB 2 and to move forward.
Whether there is enough support in the House, either from House leadership or from the body, will remain to be seen in the coming days and weeks as the bill is run this session.