North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper proposed on Tuesday what he called a compromise to his state’s controversial “bathroom law” that he hopes can appease state Republicans.
But his stiffest opposition might come from the other side of the political spectrum — LGBT groups who want the law repealed without any concessions.
The law, known as House Bill 2, blocks North Carolina towns from passing legal protections for LGBT people, and effectively forces transgender people to use the public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex instead of their gender identity.
Critics of the Republican-backed legislation say it opens the door to anti-LGBT discrimination, while proponents have maintained it protects women and girls from sexual predators posing as transgender women in bathrooms.
Cooper, speaking at a news conference in Raleigh, proposed a repeal of the law coupled with stricter punishments for people who commit crimes in bathrooms. Under his proposal, cities would also have to notify the state legislature and wait 30 days before passing anti-discrimination ordinances, such as the one Charlotte passed a year ago, sparking a Republican backlash that resulted in HB2.
Two LGBT rights groups, the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC, swiftly denounced Cooper’s olive branch to Republicans.
“Today’s proposal is yet another chance to fix this mess, but it adds unnecessary language addressing problems that simply do not exist,” JoDee Winterhof, a senior vice president at HRC, said in a joint statement. “LGBTQ people are the ones at risk every day HB2 remains on the books, and transgender people especially continue to bear the brunt of this shameful politicking.”
Equality NC director Chris Sgro, a former state Democratic House member, blamed Republican leadership for balking on a previous deal to repeal the law in December.
“At this point, we all know what the answer is — full repeal of HB2. Only a full repeal of HB2 will fix our state,” he said in the statement.
Cooper’s attempt at compromise didn’t seem to be embraced by state Republicans, either. In a statement released Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest argued Cooper’s repeal would still allow heterosexual men posing as transgender women to enter women’s bathrooms, so long as they “look but don’t touch.”
“They will be able to watch women and children shower, or shower next to them. As long as the man doesn’t touch them, assault them or film them, no legal protection would be afforded the offended woman or child. Nothing,” Forest said.
In fact, such actions are already classified as a misdemeanour in North Carolina.
Democrats have ramped up their efforts to repeal the bathroom law the past few weeks. Cooper’s proposal is the fourth this year aimed at striking the law from the books. None of the four proposals have attracted public Republican support.
Earlier this month, the NCAA threatened to remove from consideration more than 100 bids for North Carolina to host college championship events over the next six years, costing the state as much as $US250 million, if the law stays intact, according to the North Carolina Sports Association.
The NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference already relocated more than a dozen championships for the current academic year, and the NBA moved its upcoming All-Star Game from Charlotte to New Orleans.
Numerous performers canceled concerts in North Carolina last year, and businesses including PayPal and Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans in the state, costing it hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.