North Carolina Senate Republicans unanimously passed a bill yesterday, while their Democratic counterparts walked out of the building.
The controversial bill overturned a Charlotte City Council ordinance preventing discrimination against LGBTQ people. The local ordinance would have banned businesses from denying services based on sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. It would have also allowed public school students to choose bathrooms based on the gender they identify with.
The bill drew the ire of more-conservative state lawmakers, however. They even called a special session to block the ordinance.
"The radical left wing groups and the liberal politicians like our attorney general are afraid to stand up to the political correctness model and fight for common sense," Republican senator Buck Newton said during a Senate committee meeting. "They refuse to take action to protect the safety and the privacy of women and children."
Lawmakers quickly drafted a bill to block the ordinance, releasing it the day before voting and giving House committee members just five minutes to read it over. The bill requires residents to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, and prevents other city councils from passing anti-discrimination laws.
After 30 minutes of public discussion, the bill passed the House with all Republicans and 11 Democrats in favor. It then went to the Senate, where Democrats (who hold only 15 seats) refused to vote on the bill at all.
"This legislation clearly sends the message that it is OK to discriminate against our LGBT community. Discrimination is NOT a North Carolinia value," Democratic Senator Terry Van Duyn told Revelist. "While I could have voted NO, I believe this bill demanded a stronger response."
The bill passed the Senate 32-0 and was sent to Republican governor Pat McCrory, who signed it into law.
If McCrory and the General Assembly had allowed the city council ordinance to remain, Charlotte would have joined over 225 U.S. cities with similar anti-discrimination laws.The Human Rights Campaign and other social justice organizations initially applauded Charlotte's ordinance when it passed.
"The City Council’s vote today sends a clear message that discrimination has no place in Charlotte," HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse said in a statement. "Everyone, regardless of who they are, should have the legal right to feel safe in their community."
It appears a majority of North Carolina lawmakers disagree.