North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature on Wednesday defeated a bipartisan bid to repeal a controversial law restricting bathroom access in the state for transgender people, which has seen months of protests and boycotts by opponents decrying the measure as discriminatory.
A one-day special legislative session ended abruptly after the state Senate voted against abolishing a law that has made the state the latest U.S. battleground over lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.
The legislation to repeal the law, known as House Bill 2 (HB2), was defeated on a vote of 32-16, leaving the bathroom restrictions in place statewide. The rejection followed Republican-led political maneuvering that tied its repeal to a second provision that would have temporarily banned cities from affirming transgender bathroom rights.
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The Republican-dominated state Senate adjourned without voting on the temporary municipal ban. The state’s House of Representatives, also controlled by Republicans, had already voted to adjourn.
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Democratic Senator Jeff Jackson said the repeal was defeated because Republicans reneged on a deal with Democrats to bring the measure to a floor vote with no strings attached.
“They got here with strings attached so it failed,” Jackson said.
Earlier in the week, outgoing Republican Governor Pat McCrory had called the special session to consider scrapping the law, which passed in March and made North Carolina the first state to bar transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender identity.
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Supporters of the statute cited traditional values and a need for public safety, while opponents called it mean-spirited, unnecessary and a violation of civil liberties.
The national backlash was swift and fierce, leading to boycotts that have been blamed for millions of dollars in economic losses for the state as events, such as business conferences and the National Basketball Association’s 2017 All-Star Game, were moved out of North Carolina.
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The pushback contributed to McCrory’s razor-thin defeat in a fall re-election bid against Democrat Roy Cooper, an opponent of the law.
On Monday, Cooper had said he reached a deal with state Republicans to repeal the law. But Republicans eventually proposed pairing the repeal with a months-long “cooling-off period,” or moratorium, in which local jurisdictions would be banned from enacting their own ordinances regulating public bathrooms, showers or changing facilities.
The moratorium proposal died without the Senate taking any action.
HB 2 was enacted largely in response to a local measure in Charlotte that protected the rights of transgender people to use public bathrooms of their choice.
The Charlotte City Council on Monday repealed its ordinance as a prelude to the state repealing HB 2.