Local legislators oppose Charlotte bathroom ordinance

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Rowan County’s state legislators are united in their opposition to a controversial ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council.

The ordinance, passed in February, gives the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community additional protections. The most controversial provision would allow transgender people to use a bathroom based on the gender with which the person identifies. State legislators will be in session today to consider striking down the ordinance.

Rowan’s legislators say the bathroom provision could endanger women and children. If left unaddressed, the provision has the potential to affect policies in other cities, they argued.

“To me, it goes against all kinds of common sense and decency standards,” said State Sen. Andrew Brock, R-34.

Brock said supporters of the LGBT ordinance may complain about the cost of holding a special session — $42,000 per day — when the legislature is already scheduled to convene its regular session next month. The Charlotte ordinance, however, would take effect April 1. Brock said the cost is minuscule compared to the potential effects on the lives of North Carolinians.

“You know, $42,000 is not going to cover the medical expenses when a pervert walks into a bathroom and my little girls are in there,” Brock said.

Sen. Tom Mcinnis, R-25, said bathrooms should be a “private place for private business.”

“It’s a place you would assume to be safe,” he said. “The biggest thing is that people do not want their privacy put in jeopardy.”

The ordinance would add to an existing Charlotte measure that protects against various types of discrimination in places such as stores, restaurants and hotels. In addition to the bathroom provision, the new ordinance would prevent business owners from refusing service based on sexual orientation. The ordinance doesn’t apply outside of the city of Charlotte.

In a phone interview, State Rep. Carl Ford, R-76, said the ordinance takes away “every business’s right to do what they want.” The state legislature could give businesses their rights back, Ford said.

Rowan’s state legislators said they’ve received a large number of requests from constituents to oppose the Charlotte ordinance. Mcinnis said he’s received “several hundred pieces of communication.”

Supporters of the Charlotte ordinance have called claims of Republican lawmakers baseless. A news release from the Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy organization for LGBT rights, called the legislature’s special session an attempt to “undermine these crucial protections.” The Human Rights Campaign also called the special session an attempt to strip local control from the City of Charlotte.

Local legislators reject the local control argument. More than one Rowan state legislator noted that counties and cities fall under the authority of state government, according to North Carolina’s constitution. Rep. Harry Warren, R-77, said the North Carolina General Assembly has a duty to correct mistakes made by local government.

“Local control, when it errs, needs to be corrected,” Warren said when asked about the LGBT ordinance.

All local legislators said they’d support striking down the Charlotte ordinance.

The North Carolina General Assembly’s special session convenes at 10 a.m. today. A proclamation declaring the special session says it is intended to provide bills “for single sex multiple occupancy bathroom and changing facilities and to create statewide consistency in regulation of employment and public accommodations.

Today’s special session will be the second held in 2016. State legislators previously held a special session to redraw maps for congressional districts after a federal court declared the old ones unconstitutional.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.