N.C. lawmakers move to strike Charlotte's transgender protections

North Carolina's General Assembly is holding a special session to debate legislation that could limit transgender bathroom access based on gender identity.

Following the passage of a law in Charlotte, N.C., that allows transgender people access to the public bathrooms corresponding with their gender identities, Raleigh lawmakers are considering implementing a statewide ban on similar ordinances.

The issue has been a contentious one in several places around the country, with advocates of more open bathroom access policies saying such laws are necessary to support the rights and safety of transgender people, while opponents say it could allow sexual predators to gain access to bathrooms they would otherwise be barred from.

More than 220 cities and counties have passed anti-discrimination laws permitting transgenders’ access to restrooms based on their gender identities.

If passed, the new legislation would overturn Charlotte’s ordinance and could open the door for discrimination based on gender identity in public restrooms. The proposed regulation is being discussed in a special one-day session of the North Carolina General Assembly one month in advance of the body's typical opening, prompted by concern from constituents and conservative activists. The bill, and the opening of the Assembly, are supported by Republican House Speaker Tim Moore.

“When a local government goes on such a radical course and a reckless course, we in the General Assembly I think not only have the authority but actually the duty to do something about it, and in this case we're going to,” he told The Associated Press.

Supporters of the Charlotte law and transgender bathroom access say the special session is uncalled for, especially at a daily cost of $42,000.

“Charlotte's law is not unusual, unique or radical,” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, told the AP. “A special session to deal with such an ordinance is radical, unique and unusual.”

For many transgender individuals, being forced to use bathrooms that correspond to their gender at birth adds an element of fear to the management of the most basic bodily functions.

“We are afraid half the time to walk in to a bathroom that matches our gender identity,” said Erica Lachowitz of Charlotte, who identifies as female but was born male. Ms. Lachowitz said that an ordinance like Charlotte’s “sends a message to everyone that we matter.”

Analogous measures attempting to limit bathroom access based on gender identity have recently fallen through in other places. A similar bill in Tennessee failed in a House committee there Tuesday, and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s veto of comparable legislation was unable to be overturned by that state’s lawmakers.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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