North Carolina Governor Tweaks Anti-LGBT Law; Critics Say It Doesn’t Change Much

Only hours after Deutsche Bank canceled its plans to expand its presence in North Carolina — and following a similar decision last week by PayPal — the state’s governor has signed an executive order that softens some aspects of a controversial bill that restricts cities’ ability to protect the rights of people based on sexual preference or gender identification.

That bill, commonly referred to as HB 2, was drafted and passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Pat McCrory in an expedited session in March. The legislation, which prohibits local lawmakers from establishing rules that protect people against discrimination based on their sexual preference or gender identity, was an apparent attempt to stave off the enactment of a Charlotte city ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the public restrooms of whichever gender they identify with. The bill has the far-reaching effect of overriding any existing local rules that protected discrimination against gay and transgender people.

Many North Carolina businesses — including Bank of America — urged the governor to not sign HB 2, saying that such . And even after he put his name to the bill, those companies called on McCrory to rethink and repeal the legislation.

Meanwhile, the state’s attorney general — who also happens to be running for governor — has said that he would and could not defend HB 2 in court.

And so today, Gov. McCrory signed an executive order that extends some protections to previously unprotected communities while leaving in place rules that critics say embody the worst spirit of HB 2.

For example, while the executive order extends — for the first time in North Carolina — anti-discrimination for public employees based on their gender identity or sexual preference, when those same state-employed folks are at work, they must use the restroom that matches the gender on their birth certificate.

So a state agency can no longer decide to not hire someone because of their gender identity, but they can tell that same person which bathroom to use.

Similarly, the executive order leaves it up to private businesses to decide whether or not they want to allow transgender customers, guests, and employees to use the restroom of their preference. However, HB 2 still supersedes all existing or pending local ordinances, meaning a city like Charlotte — or others that had protections for all LGBT people — can’t enact its more flexible restroom rules, and that municipalities are barred from creating anti-discrimination ordinances that aren’t in line with the state’s rules.

HB 2 also stripped North Carolina residents of the right to sue file an anti-discrimination suit against the state in state court; they must now file a claim in federal court. McCrory’s order doesn’t repeal that portion of the law, but he says that he will “seek legislation” in the upcoming session to reinstate that right.

The executive order did not sit well with the Human Rights Campaign, which has been vocally opposed to HB 2.

“The governor’s action is an insufficient response to a terrible, misguided law that continues to harm LGBT people on a daily basis,” says HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow in a statement. “It’s absurd that he’ll protect people from being fired but will prohibit them from using the employee restroom consistent with their gender identity.”

The HRC contends that if public schools in North Carolina comply with HB 2, they will be in violation of Title IX — a federal anti-discrimination ordinance — and at risk of losing around $4.5 billion in funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

Even in announcing the order, Gov. McCrory defended HB 2 against the criticism that has been leveled against it and the lawmakers who passed it.

“You know, after listening to people’s feedback for the past several weeks on this issue, I have come to the conclusion that there is a great deal of misinformation, misinterpretation, confusion, a lot of passion and frankly, selective outrage and hypocrisy, especially against the great state of North Carolina,” he says in the video below. “But based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state’s commitment to privacy and equality.”

Deutsche Bank is currently not commenting on the governor’s executive order. We’ve reached out to PayPal for comment, but have not yet heard back.

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