What Just Happened In North Carolina?

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Gotta take my lumps on this. TPM Reader SM was flagging the North Carolina anti-LGBT bill to us all day yesterday via email, and I was too busy on other things to give it a close look. So let me yield the floor to SM:

Not to beat a dead horse here (kinda surprised there’s been no TPM coverage of this at all), but what happened in NC on Wednesday was nothing short of breathtaking.

In a span of 12 hours, the GOP political leadership of this state called the General Assembly back to Raleigh for a special session, introduced legislation written by leadership and not previously made available to members or the public, held “hearings” on that legislation, passed it through both chambers of the legislature, and it was signed by the GOP Governor.

The special legislation was called, ostensibly, to prevent an ordinance passed last month by the Charlotte City Council, from going into effect on April 1. That ordinance would have expanded the city’s LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, and would have allowed transgendered people to use public restrooms that corresponds with their gender identity.

But the legislation introduced and passed into law by the General Assembly yesterday didn’t simply roll back that ordinance. It implemented a detailed state-wide regulation of public restrooms, and limited a person’s use of those restrooms to only those restrooms that correspond with one’s “biological sex,” defined in the new state law as the sex identified on one’s birth certificate. (So yes, by law in NC now, transgender porn star Buck Angel (look him up) will have to use the women’s room…isn’t that precisely what these lawmakers are actually wanting to prevent?).

But the legislation didn’t stop there. It also expressly pre-empted all municipal and county ordinances or policies broader than the official state anti-discrimination statute, which does not include sexual orientation or gender identity among the list of prohibited bases of discrimination. So that effectively wipes out local LGBT anti-discrimination protections in numerous NC cities (and, ironically, wipes out the protection of discrimination based on “veterans status” in Greensboro and Orange County (Chapel Hill)).

But wait, there’s more. The legislation also expressly states that there can be no statutory or common law private right of action to enforce the state’s anti-discrimination statutes in the state courts. So if a NC resident is the victim of racial discrimination in housing or employment, for example, that person is now entirely barred from going to state court to get an injunction, or to get damages of any kind. The new law completely defangs the state’s anti-discrimination statute, rendering it entirely unenforceable by the citizens of the state.

But wait, there’s more! The legislation also prohibits municipalities and counties from passing a higher minimum wage than the State’s. Not that any municipality or county had done that…but in case any of them were thinking about it, that’s now prohibited, too.
This is much broader than the RFRA laws that we saw in Indiana and Arkansas last summer, and that Georgia is dealing with right now. The NC legislature learned the lessons from those states and the political and corporate/business blow-back, and did this all before anyone could pay attention.

12 hours, start to finish.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.
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