NC Democrats file bill rewriting anti-discrimination laws

NC Democrats file bill rewriting anti-discrimination laws

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - New legislation was filed Tuesday by a group of North Carolina Democrats in what they hope to be the "most comprehensive non-discrimination legislation for LGBT and other North Carolinians."

House Bill 1078 was filed under the name "The Equality of All Act."

The proposed legislation would provide discrimination protections in housing, employment, money-lending, education, including charter schools, insurance and access to bathrooms based on a person's gender identity.

HB1078 seeks to add age, political affiliation, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, military or veteran status and genetic information to the listing of "protected status."

The bill also wants to remove legislation saying discriminatory practices are a statewide concern and "preempt any ordinance, regulation, resolution, or policy adopted or imposed by a unit of local government."

The bill's primary sponsors are Representatives Chris Sgro, Pricey Harrison, Susan C. Fisher and Kelly M. Alexander, Jr. Alexander represents District 107 in Mecklenburg County. Representative Tricia Cotham, who represents District 100 in Mecklenburg County, is also listed as a sponsor of the bill.

Sgro, who has also worked as the Executive Director of Equality NC, has been vocal against House Bill 2 since it was passed earlier this year.

House Bill 2 requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their birth certificates. The law also makes clear local measures can't expand anti-discrimination protections for sexual orientation or gender identity.

The bill came as a response to Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance, which broadly defined how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers. The center of the controversy focused on bathrooms. The city ordinance was passed in February and repealed with the state's passage of HB2 in late March.

In a one-day vote, the NCGA repealed the Charlotte ordinance, which was slated to take effect on April 1.

Following the national fallout, McCrory signed an executive order to protect the privacy and equality of all North Carolinians. According to the governor's office, Executive Order 93 "clarifies existing state law and provides new protections for North Carolina residents."

Defenders of House Bill 2 have argued that it necessary to protect the safety and privacy of people in bathrooms. Opponents have argued that the danger of a transgender person molesting a child in a restroom is all but nonexistent.

In April, Sgro was appointed to the NC House in April when Rep. Ralph Johnson died. His time in the legislature will be short. Amos Quick, a Guilford County school board member, won the Democratic primary for the seat last month and doesn't face any opposition in November, so he'll take office in January.

"Passing the Equality for All Act, along with the repeal of HB2, is essential to ensure the protection of all North Carolinians and restore North Carolina's image," Sgro said in an email Tuesday. "This necessary law will protect LGBT and other North Carolinians from discrimination in all walks of life."

Srgo and the bill sponsors are expected to speak about the proposed legislation Wednesday morning in Raleigh.

The filing of the legislation comes just 24 hours after Governor Pat McCrory and the Department of Justice filed dueling lawsuits over House Bill 2.

McCrory's lawsuit was filed Monday morning ahead of a deadline from the Department of Justice, which sent letters to the Governor, Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina saying House Bill 2 violates federal civil rights laws.

The lawsuit, filed by McCrory Monday morning, names the federal government, United States Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

"I think it's time for the U.S. Congress to bring clarity to the national anti-discrimination policies under title VII and title IX," the governor said.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch responded to the lawsuit by filing a lawsuit against the state and against Gov. Pat McCrory. Lynch says HB2 only serves to "harm innocent Americans."

The Justice Department lawsuit says the law has caused transgender people to suffer "emotional harm, mental anguish, distress, humiliation, and indignity." It seeks an order that would prevent the law's enforcement.

Lynch spoke directly to residents of her native state, saying they have been falsely told by North Carolina proponents that the law protects vulnerable people from harm in bathrooms.

"Instead, what this law does, is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share," she said. "This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does it is harm innocent Americans."

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