State Politics

Legislature could return within a week to address Charlotte LGBT ordinance

In a rally outside of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center over 60 opponents of Charlotte's expanded nondiscrimination ordinance Friday, March 18, 2016, implored Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to call a special session to repeal all or part of new legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals.
In a rally outside of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Government Center over 60 opponents of Charlotte's expanded nondiscrimination ordinance Friday, March 18, 2016, implored Gov. Pat McCrory and the General Assembly to call a special session to repeal all or part of new legal protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore said Saturday that he hopes to call a special legislative session within a week to repeal parts of a controversial Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance.

The Charlotte City Council early this month voted to expand protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, including a provision that will allow transgender people to use the restroom and locker room facilities of the gender with which they identify. The ordinance goes into effect April 1.

Opponents said the ordinance effectively allows men to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms, and they said it will endanger public safety and possibly lead to sexual assaults. Moore said the safety concerns mean that legislators can’t wait until their regular session begins on April 25.

“We’re having discussions with the governor, and I’m having discussions with Sen. Berger about a potential special session this coming week,” Moore said Saturday, referring to Senate leader Phil Berger. “I would expect it would be toward the end of this coming week.”

Under state law, the House speaker and Senate leader can call a special session if three-fifths of the legislators in both chambers support the move. Moore said that he has already met the requirement in his chamber and that “the House is ready to come into session.”

A special session would cost $42,000 a day.

Moore said he has sent a draft bill to House Republicans that would overturn the Charlotte restroom provision. He declined to provide more details of the bill. “I’m going to wait until the full caucus has the opportunity to review the legislation,” he said.

The Charlotte ordinance covers bathrooms at places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants and stores. But it doesn’t apply to private country clubs, private dining rooms, private gymnasiums and private recreation facilities.

Berger could not be reached Saturday afternoon, and Gov. Pat McCrory declined to comment on the possibility of a special session.

But the Senate’s deputy president pro tem, Republican Sen. Louis Pate of Mount Olive, said he hasn’t received a formal inquiry from Berger about the Senate’s willingness to schedule a special session.

“I’m not sure that a poll has been taken of the Senate,” Pate said, adding that he thinks a special session is a good idea.

This month, Berger appointed a committee of 10 senators and Lt. Gov. Dan Forest to consider ways to overturn the Charlotte ordinance. Berger also called on state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who’s running against McCrory, to overturn it.

On Friday, opponents of the ordinance held a rally in Charlotte to demand that legislators return to Raleigh and repeal it.

Equality NC, an LGBT advocacy group that supports the ordinance, said the legislature should focus on more important priorities.

“Equality NC is expressing concern that the state’s political leadership continues to focus all its time and energy on creating legislation to usurp local control from town and cities,” Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro said in a recent news release. “These resources would be better spent to support our teachers, to make education a priority in this state again.”

Charlotte Observer staff writer Jim Morrill contributed to this report

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter

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