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NC legislature overrides Cooper's vetoes of transgender bills

Supporters of new restrictions on transgender healthcare and sports participation gathered outside the N.C. House chamber ahead of Wednesday's veto override votes.
Colin Campbell
Supporters of new restrictions on transgender healthcare and sports participation gathered outside the N.C. House chamber in Raleigh, N.C., ahead of veto override votes on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2023.

Updated at 7:15 p.m.

The state House and Senate voted mostly along party lines Wednesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes of controversial transgender restrictions.

The Democratic governor vetoed both proposals last month. One would prevent transgender women and girls from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity. The other bill would ban hormone treatments and surgery for transgender youth.

Cooper says politicians shouldn’t prevent doctors and parents from making healthcare decisions for vulnerable children. Republicans say children are better off to wait.

"Recognizing the serious and the potentially permanent effects of the procedures that this bill addresses, it simply says they need to wait until they're 18 to make that kind of a decision," said Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke.

Rep. Sarah Crawford, D-Wake, says the legislation will be harmful to transgender youth.

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina.

"When we have an entire group of people who are eight times more likely to commit suicide than their peers, we have a responsibility to make sure that those individuals have access to all the healthcare that they need," she said.

Rep. Michael Wray, D-Northampton, was the sole Democrat voting for the measure.

North Carolina now becomes the 22nd state to restrict gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth. Similar legislation is being considered in six other states, according to the LGBTQ advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.

The transgender sports legislation is also part of a national push, which proponents say is needed to promote a level playing field in women's sports. But Democrats say the current rules and regulations are working.

"Let the governing sports bodies pass their regulations, they are much more attuned to fairness in sports than politicians are," said Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham.

The veto overrides had been delayed for weeks because, with some lawmakers away for summer vacations, Republicans didn't have the votes they needed for the required three-fifths majority.

Four other vetoed bills were overridden on Wednesday, including:

  • A bill titled the "Parents' Bill of Rights" that would limit instruction on LGBTQ topics in elementary schools and require teachers to notify parents if their child wants to use a different name or pronoun at school. That bill also includes other transparency requirements for schools, and it would require medical providers to get written permission from parents to treat patients under the age of 18.
  • Two bills that seek to change charter school regulations. House Bill 219 would eliminate enrollment growth caps on charter schools deemed to be "low performing," and it would give county governments the option to use property tax revenue to fund charter school construction projects. House Bill 618 would shift the power to approve new charter schools from the State Board of Education (largely appointed by the governor) to a Charter School Review board, appointed by the legislature.
  • A bill that would block new energy efficiency updates to the state's building code. Cooper says the bill overturns efforts to make home construction safer and more affordable.

Cooper issued a statement criticizing the votes, saying lawmakers should be instead focused on a budget that's more than six weeks late.

"The legislature finally comes back to pass legislation that discriminates, makes housing less safe, blocks FEMA disaster recovery funding, hurts the freedom to vote and damages our economy," the governor said in a news release. "These are the wrong priorities, especially when they should be working nights and weekends if necessary to get a budget passed by the end of the month."

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.
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