Sen. Berger: Bathroom portion of Charlotte ordinance 'puts children and families at risk'

Sen. Berger: Bathroom portion of Charlotte ordinance 'puts children and families at risk'

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - One of the lead Republicans in the North Carolina Senate calls portions of Charlotte's new non-discrimination ordinance "crazy" and says it puts children and families at risk.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger held a press conference after Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 last month 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.

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.

"The idea that grown men and young girls should use the same bathroom and middle school boys and girls should share locker facilities defies common sense and puts children and families at risk," Sen. Berger said Thursday. "This is crazy."

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

Sen. Buck Newton from Wilson County said he is opposed to the Charlotte decision.

"You don't have to be an attorney to know that if men start using the ladies room, there's going to be problems. If they do it here in the General Assembly or anywhere else in North Carolina, they're going to be arrested," Newton said.

Thursday, Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland), announced he has received requests from more than "three-fifths of House members to call a special session" addressing the ordinance. He started polling fellow House Republicans last week, soon after Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance was passed.

"The vast majority of my fellow colleagues in the House and I believe the ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council poses an imminent threat to public safety.  We believe it prudent to consider immediate action because the Charlotte City Council decided to make its ordinance effective prior to the convening of our short session," Speaker Moore said. "We understand that special sessions have a cost, but the North Carolina House is unwilling to put a price tag on public safety."

The General Assembly doesn't return until April 25, weeks after the ordinance goes into effect.

Last week, Governor Pat McCrory, also a Republican, said changing restroom rules could "create major public safety issues."

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

"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," McCrory said during a sit down interview. "I think they are creating a lot of potential problems."

McCrory called the ordinance 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 said.

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

A spokesman for Attorney General Roy Cooper's campaign called the news conference a political sideshow and said Cooper has made it clear local ordinances don't trump criminal law. Cooper, a Democrat, is running for governor.

Shawn Long with Equality NC says the "crazy" lies in Sen. Berger's press conference.

"My reaction was this press conference is crazy," Long said about Thursday's press conference. "This was just an extension of an already existing ordinance which clearly the cities have the right to pass and change."

"It's the same type of fear mongering that when I was growing up, as a young gay teenager, it was gay people in the restroom that were threat," Long continued. "Now, its just being redirected against trans folks."

Equality NC has previously been critical of McCrory for "perpetuating the same tired and debunked myths about transgender people and public safety." A statement from executive director Chris Sgro last month accused the governor and legislators of trying "to bully the Charlotte City Council with threats to strip municipalities of their rights to govern."

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