North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has signed an executive order that changes part of the state’s controversial bathroom bill, which sets discrimination policy for the state and requires people to use public bathrooms that match their biological sex, not their gender perception.
The order is a response to backlash from LGBT activists and some businesses, who have been up in arms about the state’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (HB2), which they say is “anti-trans.” The governor’s action seeks to ease concerns about employment discrimination without changing the part of the law that protects women’s privacy and security.
First, Read the Actual Rules
The executive order expands the state’s employment policy to special protections for gays and transgender people, but stops short of changing the part of the law that requires people to use public bathrooms according to their biological sex and not their gender perception. The change to the employment section reads:
The State of North Carolina is committed to administering and implementing all State human resources policies, practices and programs fairly and equitably, without unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity age, political affiliation, genetic information, or disability.
The order also says “private businesses, nonprofit employers and local governments may establish their own non-discrimination employment policies.”
Regarding protection of rights in employment, HB2 originally stated, “It is the public policy of this State to protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to seek, obtain and hold employment without discrimination or abridgement on account of race, religion, color, national origin, age, biological sex or handicap by employers which regularly employ 15 or more employees.”
As for bathroom accommodations, McCrory’s executive order keeps in place the original provisions:
In North Carolina, private businesses can set their own rules for their own restroom, locker room, and shower facilities, free from government interference.
< Under current law, every multiple occupancy restroom, locker room or shower facilities located in a cabinet agency must be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex. Agencies may make reasonable accommodations upon a person’s request due to special circumstances.
The order says all state agencies, cities, counties, universities, and colleges are “encouraged to make a similar accommodation when practicable.”
‘Defies Common Sense and Basic Community Norms’
The Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act was drafted in response to an overreach by a Charlotte ordinance that required businesses to allow people to use the bathroom that matched not their biological sex but their gender perception. This would have allowed men who say they identify as women to use the women’s bathrooms and locker rooms at clubs and schools. The state legislature and governor stepped in to protect women and girls from the potential threat that could result from such an ordinance.
When HB2 passed, McCrory said, “The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte. This radical breach of trust and security under the false argument of equal access not only impacts the citizens of Charlotte but people who come to Charlotte to work, visit or play. This new government regulation defies common sense and basic community norms by allowing, for example, a man to use a woman’s bathroom, shower or locker room.”
In a video announcement published Tuesday, McCrory said the Charlotte ordinance was an intrusive mandate that violated privacy. It was a “solution in search of a problem,” he said. McCrory reaffirmed that his executive order “maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker facilities in government buildings and in our schools,” but private businesses could continue to set their own rules for bathrooms and locker rooms.
Trans Activists Refuse to Compromise
The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina called McCrory’s actions “a poor effort to save face after his sweeping attacks on the LGBT community, and they fall far short of correcting the damage done when he signed into law the harmful House Bill 2, which stigmatizes and mandates discrimination against gay and transgender people.”
“Efforts to divide the LGBT community by extending limited protections but leaving in place the rules mandating discrimination against the transgender community will only strengthen our resolve to fight back against this discriminatory and misguided legislative action,” said Sarah Preston, acting executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “We call on Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina legislature to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full non-discrimination protections for all LGBT people.”
Roy Cooper, the North Carolina attorney general, who said he would not defend the law and who is McCrory’s gubernatorial opponent this fall, says McCrory’s order doesn’t go far enough: “Governor McCrory’s executive order is a day late and a veto short,” Cooper said. “The sweeping discrimination law he signed has already cost North Carolina hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. I’m glad Governor McCrory has finally acknowledged the great damage his legislation has done, but he needs to do much more.”
The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce praised McCrory’s order, saying it was in favor of anything that promoted the city and state “as places that promote diversity, inclusiveness and equality.”
“We applaud the governor’s actions today which demonstrate that North Carolina is an open and welcoming state,” the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce said in a statement. “We strongly encourage the leadership and members of the General Assembly to take quick action to the governor’s call to ensure citizens have the right to pursue claims of discrimination at the state level.”