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North Carolina's 'Bathroom Bill,' A Year Later


One year ago, North Carolina lawmakers approved House Bill 2. This was known as the bathroom bill. Supporters felt they were standing up to a progressive agenda but criticism punished the state, more than 1,000 jobs lost because of the law, also consumer boycotts. From member station WUNC, Jeff Tiberii reports.

JEFF TIBERII, BYLINE: The divide between rural and urban America has long been on display here in North Carolina. And last spring, when Republican lawmakers pushed through House Bill 2, those divisions got deeper, triggering months of protests in the state capital of Raleigh.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #1: (Over loudspeaker) They insist on forcing us to bow and kiss the ring of their political correctness theology.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER #2: (Over loudspeaker, singing) Government overreach surely must be when they start making laws about where we can pee.

TIBERII: HB2 was a response to an ordinance approved by the city of Charlotte that gave protections to LGBT people. The state law preempted that ordinance, and among other provisions, requires people to use the bathroom corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificate. It's also a power struggle between mostly rural Republican state legislators and the Democrats who control the state's big cities, says David McLennan of Meredith College.

DAVID MCLENNAN: I think it pushed back to what I think a lot of people in the rural parts of the state are seeing are happening in the big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh.

TIBERII: Since it was signed into law, 16 similar bathroom measures have been filed around the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 13 are pending and three have been voted down. McLennan says the LGBT rights issue has mobilized Republican voters.

MCLENNAN: And the issue itself was one that they could latch on to as more of a symbol of this sort of progressive humanism that has been in their minds changing North Carolina for 30 years.

TIBERII: Major corporations like PayPal and Deutsche Bank canceled job expansion plans. The NBA and NCAA relocated major sporting events in this basketball-crazed state. The state's attorney general, Democrat Roy Cooper, refused to defend the law in court. When he ran for governor last fall, Cooper criticized the Republican incumbent Pat McCrory for signing the bill.


ROY COOPER: Governor McCrory continues to go across the state telling people that this is not hurting our economy. He attacks businesses who are opposed to it and says that everything is going fine. Governor, what planet are you on?

TIBERII: Cooper won narrowly by less than 11,000 votes. The law's future remains in limbo, with multiple legal challenges pending. In December, an apparent agreement to repeal the law fell apart. Senate leader Phil Berger is the one who holds the high card, presiding over a Republican veto-proof majority.


PHIL BERGER: I don't think straight repeal is going to occur. I think it's a very difficult thing for that to be accomplished. And I don't know that it satisfies the concerns that people have.

TIBERII: Lawmakers here continue to talk about reaching a compromise but no significant changes appear imminent. For NPR News, I'm Jeff Tiberii in Raleigh, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOUND TRIBE SECTOR 9'S "TOKYO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jeff Tiberii first started posing questions to strangers after dinner at La Cantina Italiana, in Massachusetts, when he was two-years-old. Jeff grew up in Wayland, Ma., an avid fan of the Boston Celtics, and took summer vacations to Acadia National Park (ME) with his family. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, and moved to North Carolina in 2006. His experience with NPR member stations WAER (Syracuse), WFDD (Winston-Salem) and now WUNC, dates back 15 years.

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