NC House leadership drafts HB2 changes amid pressure from NBA

Published: Jun. 28, 2016 at 4:06 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 29, 2016 at 2:13 AM EDT
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RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - New legislation drafted by leadership in the North Carolina House of Representatives seeks to walk back portions of a controversial bill passed during a special session this spring restricting the rights of transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their choice.

House Bill 2 requires individuals to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate, among other things. The bill was passed in a one-day special session and was signed by Governor Pat McCrory later that night.

Lawmakers said the legislation had to be pushed through the legislature before an ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council weeks earlier, which allowed individuals to use the bathroom of their choosing, took effect.

The bill's passage ignited a firestorm of controversy that has captured national attention and prompted discussion on how best to accommodate transgender individuals.

Draft legislation obtained exclusively by On Your Side Investigates would walk back portions of the controversial bill.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to see the draft legislation obtained by WBTV

Among the draft bill's biggest changes is the creation of an official document that would recognize a person's gender reassignment. The new document, which is treated as the equivalent as a birth certificate in the draft legislation, is referred to as a certificate of sex reassignment.

"An individual who (i) was born in another state or territory of the United States that does not provide a mechanism for amending a current certificate of birth or issuing a new certificate of birth to change the sex of an individual following sex reassignment surgery and (ii) resides in this State at the time of the written application may request a certificate of sex reassignment from the State Registrar," the legislation reads. "The State Registrar shall issue a certificate of sex reassignment upon a written application from an individual accompanied by a notarized statement from the physician who performed the sex reassignment surgery or from a physician licensed to practice medicine who has examined the individual and can certify that the person has undergone sex reassignment surgery."

The draft bill also amends portions of HB2 related to protections for employees by adding specific references to federal statutes that provide special protections for certain groups of people. Other changes in the draft legislation increase the penalties for suspects convicted of committing certain offenses in a multi-person bathroom or changing facility.

A source familiar with the inner workings of the House Republican Caucus, where legislation is typically discussed prior to being introduced for debate by the full body, said caucus members had not yet been briefed on the legislation.

NBA All Star Game a driver for changes

The draft legislation is the result of months of conversations between leadership in the state legislature, including the Speaker's office, and officials from the NBA, On Your Side Investigates has learned.

Charlotte is set to host the 2017 NBA All Star Game, an event whose future has been uncertain since the passage of HB2 this spring.

A person with knowledge of the league's plans, who asked not to be identified to discuss details of the ongoing discussion surround the 2017 All Star Game's future in Charlotte, said passage of the proposed legislation would be a big step in helping the league to make the decision to keep the game in Charlotte.

The discussion have also included executives with the Charlotte Hornets, leaders from the City of Charlotte and other legislative leaders, the person said.

"What the league is looking for is for anyone to be able to use, at any All Star venue, the bathroom associated with their gender identity," the person said, adding that that goal extends to all venues used by NBA teams.

A spokesman for Moore declined to address the draft legislation obtained by WBTV and did not address the extent of his office's discussions with the NBA.

"Numerous business leaders, individuals and groups contact the Speakers' Office daily and we receive, appreciate and sometimes vet their ideas," Moore spokeman Andy Munn said. "At the end of the day, the Speaker remains committed to making sure our citizens have the right to expect privacy in bathrooms and showers."

Groups react to the draft legislation

Representative Chris Sgro, who is also the Executive Director of EqualityNC, held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in response to WBTV's story. He was joined by other legislators and representatives from equality groups.

"Just a few minutes ago we got word that a backroom deal is being cooked up by Republican leaders in the House and Senate that still discriminates against transgender North Carolinians and does nothing to restore the common sense protections passed by the Charlotte City Council earlier this year," Sgro released in a statement to the media.

WEB EXTRA: Watch the full press conference on Equality NC's Facebook page

He called for no deal on the draft bill, saying only a full repeal of HB2 would work.

"Governor Pat McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore, and Senate President Phil Berger do not realize or care that the law that they passed, HB2, not only discriminates against North Carolinians but also creates a hostile atmosphere that allows hate to fester," Sgro said. "The law they passed hurts real people, hurts our reputation, and hurts our economy."

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina tweeted a similar sentiment Tuesday afternoon.

"So-called #HB2 'fix' does nothing to restore or allow protections for #LGBT North Carolinians," the group tweeted. "The only answer is a full #RepealHB2 bill."

The Human Rights Campaign released a statement blasting the drafted legislation saying it "doubles down on the state's anti-LGBTQ law passed in March."

The group says the drafted legislation would "continue some of the most vile aspects of the HB2, including the provision that has made it illegal for transgender people to access certain restrooms and other facilities, as well as a section that blocks localities from passing non-discrimination protections for their own residents and visitors."

"This is nothing more than 'HB 2.0,'" said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Anyone who cares about equality must reject this ridiculous proposal out of hand. This despicable bill would continue insidious policies targeting LGBTQ people for discrimination and do nothing to fix the mess HB2 created. It's past time for North Carolina lawmakers to listen to the overwhelming chorus of voices from across North Carolina and around the country calling for full repeal of this hateful law."

"Appallingly, this proposal would still offensively and dangerously require the overwhelming majority of transgender people to use restrooms that don't correspond with their gender identity," officials with the HRC said. "The discriminatory proposal being offered by lawmakers today does not change the harmful status quo for nearly every transgender person in North Carolina. In fact, it would only allow access for a minority of transgender people in two states – Tennessee and Idaho -- who may be living in North Carolina."

According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, only 24 percent of transgender adults have birth certificates that correspond to their gender identities.

"Many states, including North Carolina, require transgender people to have gender reassignment surgery to update their birth certificates. However, only 33 percent of transgender people actually have gender reassignment surgery," HRC officials said. "This is due to a variety of factors – including but not limited to cost, age, health and medical needs, and access to skilled providers."

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