Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) stood by North Carolina’s new controversial law on Wednesday, brushing aside any serious consideration to the governor’s request to reverse one of the legislation’s key provisions.
Berger, the top-ranking member of the General Assembly’s upper chamber, spent much of a half-hour press conference called to address the state’s upcoming legislative session instead defending the measure known as HB2 or "The Bathroom Bill." Berger spent time clarifying what he said were widely spread misconceptions about the law. He refused to elaborate on Republican Gov. Pat McCrory’s request to repeal a section that bans workplace discrimination claims from state courts.
“We will listen to whatever the governor proposes. I’ve said pretty much what I’m going to say on House Bill 2,” Berger said.
Berger sought to refocus attention on the General Assembly on issues lawmakers will take up when they reconvene on Monday, outlining plans to increase state spending by two percent and continuing to increase pay for public school teachers. But House Bill 2—which has drawn a storm of criticism from civil rights groups, small businesses and more than 100 corporations—has changed the narrative for politicians seeking election this November, especially statewide candidates such as McCrory.
Berger insisted the law is designed to protect the privacy and safety of people using public restrooms. Opponents of HB2 say there is no evidence to suggest that providing gender identity bathroom access is a threat to the public. House Bill 2 bans municipalities from passing community wide non-discrimination ordinances, creates a state non-discrimination policy that implicitly leaves out protections for the LGBT community, and the legislation removes employees from suing in state court.
The law, which was passed after the city council in Charlotte approved an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting transgender people, requires people to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Companies, travelers and performers have canceled plans in the state since the law was passed. Last week, the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that four groups had canceled plans to hold events in Wake County, rescinding $732,000 in estimated spending. And twenty pediatric endocrinologists from across North Carolina have called on McCrory to push for a repeal of the law, saying it is sometimes impossible to assign gender to a child at birth.
Meanwhile, one of the main groups that lobbied for the law, the Christian Action League of North Carolina, has fired back on his group's website, writing that opponents are on a campaign to smear the state’s reputation. The law is not discriminatory because it creates a uniform statewide nondiscrimination policy, he said.