In a special session 83-25 vote in the House of Representatives and a 32-0 vote in the state Senate on Wednesday, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed HB-2, a bill that prevents that state’s cities and counties from passing protection laws against LGBTQ discrimination. Republican Gov. Pat McCrory officially signed the bill into law on Wednesday night.
The legislation sets a statewide precedent for anti-discrimination policies that protect employees and customers based on their race, color, country of origin, religion, age or “biological sex.” There is no mention, however, of discrimination protection for lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender people in the bill, which is most clearly highlighted by its “biological” clause.
Furthermore, the bill prevents local governments from writing and passing policies in favor of anti-discrimination that go beyond that statewide precedent—which essentially claims to cover everyone while conveniently leaving out LGBTQ residents. This includes ordinances regarding wages, benefits and employee protections. This bill also prevents educational institutions from passing internal policies regarding the use of restrooms by transgender people outside of their assigned sex. So in short, it legally allows discrimination, without any method of recourse.
The bill’s scope doesn’t stop there. It also prohibits cities and counties from raising the minimum wage as well as generating anti-discrimination policy that bans bias based on military and veteran status.
During House floor debate, Democratic state Rep. Grier Martin proposed an amendment to include anti-discrimination protections that would include veteran status, sexual orientation and gender identity. However, Republican Rep. Paul Stam—a veteran himself—argued against it, citing he believed veterans don’t need this type of legislative protection. The amendment was tabled for the time being.
In a statement regarding the bill’s passing, Senate Democratic Leader Dan Blue accused the state’s conservative lawmakers of directly attacking equality and government autonomy.
“This bill essentially repeals 50 years of non-discrimination efforts and gives lawmakers in Raleigh unprecedented control over our city and local governments,” Blue said. “North Carolina Republicans want to pass what would potentially be the single most discriminatory act in the country. This is a direct affront to equality, civil rights and local autonomy.”
The special assembly, which the state’s governor originally urged against as it would cost taxpayers an additional $42,000 a day to hold, convened as a result of a Charlotte anti-discrimination policy. That bill barred businesses from discriminating against their customers based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It was passed in a 7-4 vote last month and was met with criticism for its provision that transgender people could have the choice to use bathrooms based on their gender identity.
McCrory and other Republican legislators argued that the policy generates “major public safety issues,” and allows male predators to enter women’s bathrooms without recourse.
North Carolina is not the only state to enforce anti-discrimination protections that exclude particular groups, though none of the others are as extensive. Arkansas and Tennessee also have laws that prevent cities from enacting anti-discrimination legislation for LGBT people.