RALEIGH — North Carolina’s law preventing local governments from passing anti-discrimination protections and directing which public bathrooms transgender people can use has earned a fresh wave of resistance from both activists and Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials who have announced the system’s transgender students can choose the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
Between 300 and 400 protesters rallied late Wednesday between the Legislative Building and the old Capitol building where Gov. Pat McCrory keeps his office calling for a full repeal of the law in the final weeks of the General Assembly’s session.
Advocates from the Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC said the law’s discriminatory language and policies breed violence like the Orlando shooting at a gay night club where 49 people were killed.
“If lawmakers adjourn this legislative session without undoing the incredibly dangerous and hateful environment they’ve created, if they try to cut and run without fixing this mess, they will remain complicit in any threats or violence targeting LGBTQ people in North Carolina that are made in the wake of HB2’s passage,” said JoDee Winterhof of the Human Rights Campaign.
McCrory’s office reaffirmed his dedication to backing the law Tuesday by issuing a harsh critique of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools new regulations for transgender students calling it a “radical change” that “changes basic expectations of privacy.”
“The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System should have waited for the courts to make a decision instead of purposely breaking state law,” McCrory’s spokesman Graham Wilson wrote in a release.
School officials say the new regulations are in line with an April ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, that stated that transgender students must be allowed to use restrooms based on the gender they identify with, not the one on their birth certificate.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools lawyer George Battle said North Carolina falls under that ruling.
“This isn’t CMS taking a stand against HB2, this isn’t us flouting our legislature, this is CMS following the law of the land,” Battle said.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools superintendent Ann Clark told media Monday that the new regulations to its anti-bullying policies have been in the works for more than a year and were developed based on reports from transgender students and their parents who said they were harassed and felt unsafe at school.
“”This is about listening to our students, first and foremost, listening to the voices of their parents, realizing we had some work to do and embracing that work and moving forward. We’ve tried to make sure our elected officials understand what this about. This is about courage, understanding and compassion,” Clark said.
The new policies include updating school rosters with students’ preferred pronouns and reviewing the necessity of some gender-specific uniforms and extracurricular activities.
More than 300 principals and staff were trained Monday on the regulations to specify that student records indicating gender identity remain private and that transgender students have the option of altered locker room schedules or private changing areas.
“There’s such a complexity to how kids come to school and present that, until you really take some time to understand what it is to be transgender, you’re going to miss something, maybe unintentionally, and you’re not going to be as capable to really meet them where they need to be,” said Mark Bosco, Myers Park High School principal who attended training Monday.
McCrory’s spokesman said the school system should have waited for the results of pending federal lawsuits.
The U.S. Department of Justice has sued North Carolina, saying the law violates civil rights, and McCrory has sued the federal government for overreaching into state affairs.
The city of Charlotte’s antidiscrimination ordinances for LGBT individuals prompted Republican lawmakers to pass the state law in March.
McCrory was mayor of Charlotte for 14 years.