Under the Dome

Republican lawmakers blast Charlotte’s LGBT protections

Republican legislative leaders on Thursday continued to hammer away at Charlotte’s new legal protections for LGBT residents, with the House calling for a special legislative session to deal with it.

Shortly before Speaker Tim Moore announced House support for a special session, Senate leaders called on Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper to effectively nullify the ordinance.

Senate leaders held out the possibility of a special session, which would have to be called by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene for this year’s session April 25. The ordinance takes effect April 1.

Top Senate Republicans blasted the Charlotte City Council as well as Cooper. The council last month revised the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to add sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression to the list of protected groups. The change will allow transgender people the right to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with.

“The City Council of Charlotte has lost its mind,” Sen. Buck Newton of Wilson County told a news conference at the General Assembly.

Newton, who is running for attorney general, said the entire ordinance should be overturned, not just the bathroom provision. He also criticized Cooper, who is running for governor.

“Let’s be clear about this,” Newton said. “We’re calling on Roy Cooper to do what Roy Cooper was elected to do.”

Asked what specific laws they want Cooper to enforce, Republican Rep. Dan Bishop of Charlotte said the Charlotte ordinance could allow violation of several statutes, including indecent exposure and trespassing.

Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann could not be reached for comment.

Cooper said in a statement that local ordinances “can’t trump criminal law.”

“District attorneys can prosecute criminals just as always,” he said. “This news conference is at best a partisan political sideshow for an attorney general candidate, and worse it’s misleading North Carolinians about how the law actually works.”

In announcing House approval for a special session, Speaker Tim Moore of Kings Mountain said the Charlotte ordinance “poses an imminent threat to public safety.”

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Eden called the Charlotte ordinance unreasonable.

“How many fathers are now going to be forced to go to the ladies’ room to make sure their little girls aren’t molested?” he said.

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, a gay rights group, said “(T)he state’s political leadership continues to focus all its time and energy on creating legislation to usurp local control from towns and cities.

“Ordinances, like the one passed in Charlotte, protect and safeguard the right and opportunity of all persons to be free from arbitrary discrimination,” he said in a statement. “We simply cannot abandon these crucial protections because a small group of extremists in Raleigh are using the LGBT community as political leverage.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill