The city’s ordinances include language that some say resembles the controversial transgender bathroom law signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week.
But Raleigh leaders say a separate, more recently-enacted anti-discrimination policy more accurately represents how the city views and enforces bathroom use.
McCrory signed House Bill 2 that prevents transgender people from using the bathroom meant for the gender with which they identify. Supporters say the law protects women and children from potential abuse, while opponents – from the Obama administration and prominent business leaders to celebrities like Caitlyn Jenner – say it’s discriminatory.
Against that backdrop, some of the law’s supporters this week questioned why Raleigh hasn’t received negative attention for a city ordinance that bans “a member of one sex” from entering or using a public or private bathroom facility “provided for members of the opposite sex” – similar to House Bill 2.
State Rep. Dean Arp, a Union County Republican, used his Twitter account to point out Raleigh’s ordinance.
“Who boycott Raleigh? [sic]” Arp tweeted, adding “#KeepNCSafe.”
Raleigh’s bathroom ordinance has been on the books since 1959, but the City Attorney’s office flagged it to be amended or removed from the rulebook in October when it launched its “recodification” process, said Damien Graham, Raleigh’s communications director.
“The recodification team learned that this section had not been enforced or interpreted in anyone’s recent memory,” Graham said. City leaders will likely adopt the team’s recommendation to change the ordinance this summer, he added.
The 1959 code has been identified for recodification and will change as a result of that process. It is not illustrative of who we are as a city and how we conduct our business.
Damien Graham, Raleigh’s communications director
Though it doesn’t address bathrooms specifically, a 2014 city ordinance opposing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity more accurately represents the city’s views and enforcement practices, Graham said.
But the new state law may nullify the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance. While legal experts say House Bill 2 appears to void transgender and sexual orientation protections like Raleigh’s, the city’s attorneys haven’t offered their interpretation. Regardless of the legal implications, Graham said, the city will continue to treat its transgender residents with respect.
“The 1959 code has been identified for recodification and will change as a result of that process,” he said. “It is not illustrative of who we are as a city and how we conduct our business.”
Graham’s comments follow a statement from Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane affirming the city’s support for the transgender community. McFarlane said Raleigh supports all “businesses, citizens and visitors with the utmost respect,” regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Arp’s tweet referenced a blog post by Joey Stansbury, a conservative activist who lives in Raleigh, which cast McFarlane as a hypocrite. Stansbury’s post echoed the views of McCrory, who earlier this week said media reports that “distort the truth” are to blame for the pushback against the new law.
“Maybe when the local left quits using this issue as a whipping boy to attack Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly and Governor McCrory, they can head a few blocks down to Hargett Street to address the hard core transphobic bigotry found there,” he wrote, referring to City Hall’s location.
McFarlane couldn’t be reached for comment.
Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin said she hopes city leaders will change the 1959 law, which she described as “outdated.”
“Let’s face it. These guys are grasping at straws because of the pushback,” Baldwin said.