RALEIGH — A North Carolina law limiting protections for LGBT people, which stoked a national debate over transgender rights when it was approved in March, appears unlikely to see any major revisions during this year’s legislative session. A top lawmaker said Friday that only a portion related to workplace lawsuits will be amended.
House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters that he expected the General Assembly to restore the right to use state law to sue over workplace discrimination, but that was the only change he expected. Both chambers were holding floor sessions Friday with an eye toward wrapping up for the year.
There has been no appetite among Republican lawmakers to undo a requirement that transgender people must use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. That provision of the law lies at the heart of two legal challenges and has raised some of the biggest objections from equality advocates.
The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections.
Republican legislators have held closed-door meetings to consider adjusting the law and gauging whether they have enough votes to get the legislation to Gov. Pat McCrory’s desk. McCrory had urged lawmakers to restore workers’ ability to sue in state court over workplace discrimination.
Pressure to change the law has come from several quarters including the NBA, which has been weighing whether to keep the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte. Commissioner Adam Silver said this month that progress was needed toward changing the law this summer to ensure the event stays in the city.
The league issued a joint statement late Thursday with the Charlotte Hornets saying they were doubtful that proposed changes would go far enough.
“We have been engaged in dialogue with numerous groups at the city and state levels, but we do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature,” the statement said.
Asked about the league’s stance, Moore said: “We’ve had conversations with the NBA and had discussions. But you know the process, I don’t think lends itself to pass legislation — perhaps what they might want to see.”
The legislature approved giving McCrory’s office $500,000 to defend the law in court, transferring the money from a disaster relief fund. The move drew jibes from gay rights advocates.
“Our coastal communities especially will not appreciate that,” said Rep. Chris Sgro of Guilford County, who serves as executive director of Equality North Carolina.
Moore later said the state has plenty set aside to respond to disasters and blamed North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, for refusing to defend the law in court.
The law also throws into question the state’s viability as a host for NCAA sporting events. Weeks after North Carolina’s law was enacted, the association passed a measure requiring host sites to demonstrate that they are “free of discrimination.”
Entertainers including Bruce Springsteen have canceled concerts to protest the law, while scores of business leaders signed a letter seeking its repeal. Rallies to support the law, meanwhile, drew thousands of conservatives to Raleigh.
Advocacy groups led by the Human Rights Campaign signed a letter Friday saying that nothing short of a full repeal would fix the law.
“Any attempt to pass additional discriminatory legislation will be seen for what it is — a shameful political ploy designed to give some lawmakers cover as the state continues to discriminate against its LGBTQ citizens,” said JoDee Winterhof, a senior official overseeing political affairs for the HRC.