Gov. Roy Cooper hasn’t said if he supports fellow Democrats’ plan to enact a statewide nondiscrimination law as part of repealing House Bill 2.
The proposal was filed Thursday by multiple Democratic legislators with support from two major LGBT advocacy groups, Human Rights Campaign and Equality North Carolina.
In addition to repealing the controversial LGBT law that restricts transgender bathroom access and local nondiscrimination ordinances, House Bill 82 would create a broad statewide nondiscrimination law that would include sexual orientation, gender identity, military veteran status and other categories.
It would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations – including bathroom access for transgender people. The bill says “a place of public accommodation shall provide access to (bathroom) facilities based on a person’s gender identity.”
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That provision is similar to the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance that led to HB2 amid Republicans’ fears that sexual predators might use the provision to access the opposite gender’s bathroom facilities.
HB 82 is one of three HB2 repeal bills filed by Democrats. A bill filed by Rep. Cecil Brockman of High Point has identical nondiscrimination protections but also includes tougher penalties for sex crimes committed in bathrooms. A bill filed by Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte would simply repeal HB2.
The governor hasn’t specifically addressed any of the proposals. Asked if he supports the bills – including the nondiscrimination law – Cooper spokesman Ford Porter issued a statement calling broadly for HB2 repeal.
“The governor is committed to repealing HB2 and undoing the harmful effects it has had on North Carolina,” Porter said. “The votes exist to repeal it today and Republican leaders just need to have the backbone to be bipartisan.”
The News & Observer asked Porter to specifically say if the governor supports Democrats’ repeal bills and if Cooper has a preference among them, but Porter did not respond to the follow-up questions.
During his campaign last year, Cooper voiced strong opposition to HB2 but wouldn’t say if he supported the bathroom provision in Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance.
Senate leader Phil Berger has criticized Cooper’s silence on the issue.
“To our knowledge, the news media has neither asked nor received an answer from Roy Cooper about the key HB2 issue: Does Roy Cooper believe men should be able to go into women’s bathrooms and shower facilities?” Berger spokeswoman Amy Auth said last week.
Supporters of the Charlotte ordinance say existing criminal laws such as those against voyeurism and indecent exposure would prevent the city’s protections from being used for nefarious purposes.
The repeal bill with the nondiscrimination law appears to be the most popular proposal among Democrats in the legislature, with 19 House Democrats co-sponsoring it. Senate Democrats have said they’ll file an identical bill but haven’t yet done so.
On Monday, Chris Sgro, a former legislator and the executive director of Equality North Carolina, called on supporters to call their legislators and ask them to support HB 82.