Gov. McCrory signs executive order to protect 'privacy and equality'

Reaction to revisions of House Bill 2
Published: Apr. 12, 2016 at 6:39 PM EDT|Updated: Apr. 13, 2016 at 3:57 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Following the national fallout from North Carolina's House Bill 2, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has 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."

The executive order comes in response to backlash from House Bill 2 (HB2), which was signed into law in late March.

HB2 repealed Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance, which was passed in February.

The Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 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 have been affected by the ordinance.

The ordinance quickly became controversial with the majority of the focus revolving around the bathroom.

Republican leaders in North Carolina, including Governor Pat McCrory, expressed concern over the ordinance. A special session of the North Carolina General Assembly was held in late March.

In a one-day vote, the NCGA repealed the Charlotte ordinance, which was slated to take effect on April 1.

The new law required 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.

FULL TRANSCRIPTION: Gov. McCrory on signing of Executive Order 93

"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," said Governor McCrory. "Based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state's commitment to privacy and equality."

According to the governor's office, the executive order does the following:

  • Maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and schools
  • Affirms the private sector’s right to establish its own restroom and locker room policies
  • Affirms the private sector and local governments’ right to establish its own non-discrimination employment policies for its own employees
  • Expands the state’s employment policy for state employees to cover sexual orientation and gender identity
  • Seeks legislation to reinstate the right to sue in state court for discrimination

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read Executive Order 93

The governor's office says North Carolina is now one of 24 states that have protections for sexual orientation and gender identity for its employees.

But Charlotte School of Law professor Brian Clarke said the Governor's executive order most likely doesn't carry a lot of weight.

"By and large some positive messaging but without a lot of concrete legal force behind it" Professor Clarke said. "Because he can't in an executive order over-ride something the legislature has done."

Clarke said the "General Assembly can sorta go along with it. The General Assembly has the ability to over-ride his executive order and could do that."

Representative Tricia Cotham, a Democrat from Mecklenburg County, told WBTV "I'm glad that he {McCrory} is acknowledging how many people across the state, especially here in Mecklenburg County, are so upset and concerned about all the economic impact of the bill. However, his executive order is pretty much meaningless so I don't see it as a big win for our county or our state."

Cotham points out while the order wants to protect LGBT transgender people who are state employees in state government buildings, it doesn't address other parts of HB 2 such as local communities passing minimum wage ordinances.

"It still allows discrimination," Rep Cotham said. "It does give back the right to sue but at the end of the day what we have to remember is the legislature that did this legislation - HB2 - still has the final say."

Senator Jeff Tarte, a Republican from Mecklenburg County, said HB2 will never be repealed because of the concerns of men using women's restrooms.

Tarte told WBTV the Governor's executive order "serves as both clarification of language within HB2 and also serves to improve some things."

"I think it's good direction from the Governor," Senator Tarte said. "Sends a loud, clear signal to the business community that we're listening, trying to do the right thing but the heart and soul of the bill though doesn't change."

Tarte said "It's a clear message from the Governor that the intent never has been nor will be to ever enable or allow anyone to discriminate against anybody in the LGBT community."

Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is also the Democratic candidate running against McCrory in his re-election bid, released a statement in response to McCrory's executive order

"Governor McCrory's executive order is a day late and a veto short. The sweeping discrimination law he signed has already cost North Carolina hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. I'm glad Governor McCrory has finally acknowledged the great damage his legislation has done, but he needs to do much more," Cooper said. "The truth is, this executive order doesn't change the fact that HB 2 has written discrimination into the law. Governor, work to repeal HB 2."

The chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party echoed Cooper's sentiments.

"With his actions today, Governor McCrory acknowledged for the first time the full scope and consequences of his discriminatory law. For two weeks, he's attempted to mislead about the effects of HB2 with long, incorrect memos and Internet videos," Patsy Keever said. "But today's Executive Order does nothing to fix what's really wrong with his job-killing law: legalized discrimination that will continue to cost the state of North Carolina jobs and respect."

The Charlotte Chamber released a statement about ten minutes after the governor's announcement.

"Today's action by Governor Pat McCrory sends a positive message to businesses across North Carolina and to our economic development clients throughout the country and world that North Carolina and Charlotte understand the need to attract and retain diverse talent in our workforce," Bob Morgan, Charlotte Chamber President and CEO.

A longer statement from the Charlotte Chamber Executive Committee was sent to WBTV Tuesday afternoon.

"The Charlotte Chamber supports our well-deserved reputation as a city that promotes and embraces diversity, inclusion and equality. The business community, in particular, understands the need to develop, attract and retain diverse talent. We believe that the growing diversity of our population is in fact a competitive advantage for Charlotte's economy. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce opposes discrimination in all forms. 

We applaud the Governor's actions today which demonstrate that North Carolina is an open and welcoming state.

We support efforts by all leaders at city and state levels to promote North Carolina and Charlotte as places that promote diversity, inclusiveness and equality.

We strongly encourage the leadership and members of the General Assembly to take quick action to the Governor's call to ensure citizens have the right o pursue claims of discrimination at the state level.

Charlotte remains open for business as a city where everyone is always welcome."

Charlotte mayor Jennifer Roberts, who has been critical of the state's move to strike the Charlotte ordinance and pass House Bill 2, tweeted that she was "pleased to see movement" from the governor's office.

"Historic to include LGBT protections for state employees," she tweeted. "Look forward to more dialogue."

Senate Leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said with the executive order McCrory "put to rest the left's lies about HB 2."

"[He] proved it allows private and public employers, non-profits and churches the ability to adopt nondiscrimination policies that are stronger than state and federal law," Berger said. "But that fact is irrelevant to Roy Cooper and his left-wing political correctness mob with their agenda-driven allies in the liberal media, who will never stop trashing North Carolina until they achieve their goal of allowing any man into any women's bathroom or locker room at any time simply by claiming to feel like a woman."

The American Civil Liberties Union called the executive order a "poor effort to save face" for McCrory, saying it "fall far short of correcting the damage done."

"With this executive order, LGBT individuals still lack legal protections from discrimination, and transgender people are still explicitly targeted by being forced to use the wrong restroom," said ACLU of North Carolina Acting Executive Director Sarah Preston.

"An impressive and growing number of businesses, faith leaders, and public figures have come out to condemn House Bill 2 as an unnecessary and dangerous measure that unfairly targets gay and transgender people," Preston continued. "Regardless of political affiliation, more and more political leaders also understand that discrimination is bad for business and politically toxic. The public believes in equality and fairness and House Bill 2 and measures like it are out of step with the values of most Americans."

"Efforts to divide the LGBT community by extending limited protections but leaving in place the rules mandating discrimination against the transgender community will only strengthen our resolve to fight back against this discriminatory and misguided legislative action," she said. "We call on Gov. McCrory and the North Carolina legislature to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full non-discrimination protections for all LGBT people."

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging House Bill 2 in late March.

"The lawsuit argues that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state," the groups said in a statement.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the full lawsuit filed against HB2

The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and invading the privacy of transgender people.

"The devastating blow of HB 2 will not be fixed by the band-aid of an executive order," Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Kyle Palazzolo said about the executive order. "While this is an improvement for the state employees it impacts, HB 2's reach goes far beyond what the executive order addresses and that's why we are challenging this extreme and discriminatory measure - in order to ensure that everyone who lives in and visits North Carolina is protected under the law."

"HB 2 is an attack on fairness in employment, education, and local governance that encourages discrimination against thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home, and it particularly targets transgender people," Palazzolo continued. "This lawsuit is crucial for the entire LGBT community in North Carolina because partial measures, like this executive order, are unacceptable to us, to LGBT North Carolinians, and to others around the country anxious to see an end to these dangerous displays of intolerance."

Equality NC's Matt Hirschy told WBTV the executive order was not nearly enough.

"At the end of the day, this law is deeply discriminatory against trans folks," Hirschy said. "It's also against working class people in north Carolina. It needs to be fully repealed."

While Hirschy appreciates the governors efforts to protect the LGBT community in state government, he believes that only scratches the surface.

"We still need protections in private employment. Anybody in this state who doesn't work for a municipal or state government can now still be fired for being gay or trans," Hirschy said.

But Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Coalition of Conscience, applauded McCrory's efforts.

"Kudos to the governor for saying we're not going to bow down to corporate bullying and threats," Brown said.

While Hirschy hopes the law will soon be completely repealed, Brown looks toward some resolve between two sides who are very much at war.

"We have to live together as neighbors in North Carolina. How about we sit and talk through our differences to at least understand each other," Brown said.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. All rights reserved.