McCrory: Non-discrimination ordinance breaks 'expectation of privacy' in restroom

RAW: Pat McCrory on why he's getting involved
(Devin Futrelle | WBTV)
(Devin Futrelle | WBTV)

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory is speaking out after Charlotte legalized the ability of transgender people to choose public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

McCrory, a former mayor of Charlotte, said changing restroom rules could "create major public safety issues."

The Charlotte measure broadly defines how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers, but as in other cities recently, the debate has focused on bathrooms.

"Your own individual privacy, you expect based upon our past values and standards, to have, within those confines of using a facility, certain aspects of privacy," McCrory said during a sit-down interview with WBTV's Steve Crump. "Everyone is impacted by this and I just think it's a wrong thing to do and it has ramifications beyond the city of Charlotte and that's why I'm engaging."

While he tracked the progress of Monday night's spirited conversation at Charlotte's city council meeting, the governor said going to the bathroom is an action that demands privacy.

"I think [it] breaks the basic standards, and frankly expectations, of privacy that all individuals - men and women and children alike - would expect in a restroom facility or a locker room facility," he continued. "I think they are creating a lot of potential problems."

MOBILE USERS: Click here to hear McCrory's full interview with WBTV

In an email Sunday, ahead of the vote, McCrory said "this action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention which I would support as governor."

The Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 Monday to add sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status as attributes protected from discrimination when it comes to public accommodations including restaurants, retail stores and other businesses.

Public schools would not be affected by the law, which would take effect April 1.

"I'm pleased that Charlotte has sent a signal that we will treat people with dignity and respect, even when we disagree," Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts said moments after the vote.

McCrory calls the ordinance passed by the council an overreach by local government.

"I just think this is a rather extreme measure taken, and not conducive to the standards and expectations that people have in North Carolina or the city of Charlotte, for that matter."

McCrory says the North Carolina General Assembly will visit the issue during the short session this coming April.

Another key legislative leader signaled Tuesday that he is prepared to intervene.

House Speaker Tim Moore said in a statement he would join fellow Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and conservative colleagues "in exploring legislative intervention to correct this radical course." The legislature's next scheduled session begins in late April.

In North Carolina, the advocacy group Equality NC criticized McCrory for "perpetuating the same tired and debunked myths about transgender people and public safety." The statement from executive director Chris Sgro accuses the governor and legislators of trying "to bully the Charlotte City Council with threats to strip municipalities of their rights to govern."

About 140 members of the public got one minute each to offer their opinions before Monday's vote. The council chambers were filled to capacity, and some speakers had to await their time outside.

Among them was Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of NC Values Coalition, who said "I applaud Gov. McCrory for having the sense to throw out this unreasonable and unnecessary ordinance."

Members of Charlotte's LGBT community said in a survey the changes are needed because they have been denied service, received poor service or experienced disparaging comments, according to supplemental materials attached to Monday's Council agenda. Opponents— including some clergy and business owners —sent the Council a letter asserting that businesses should have the right to refuse service based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Research by the council's staff cited some residents' concerns that sexual predators would use the ordinance to gain entry to women's restrooms for assault or indecent exposure, but the researchers also said they had not found any evidence of such crimes increasing in cities with such ordinances.

Several hundred people stood outside in a wind-driven rain to protest, holding signs saying "No Men In Women's Restrooms" and "Keep Kids Safe."

Chris Williams, a 30-year-old father of three, passed out "No" stickers to the crowd, saying most Charlotte residents "stand with religious values."

"I don't want my kids having to even question, 'Why is there this person in the restroom?'" he said. "I don't think they should even be faced with that question and that concern."

A similar measure was narrowly defeated by the Charlotte City Council in March 2015, even after the bathroom provision was removed. Local officials later announced that in city- and county-owned facilities, transgender people could freely use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.