NC legislature mulls special session over Charlotte trans public accommodations ordinance

In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, members of the audience hold up signs before the start of a City Council meeting's vote on the nondiscrimination ordinance, in Charlotte, N.C.

In this photo taken on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, members of the audience hold up signs before the start of a City Council meeting's vote on the nondiscrimination ordinance, in Charlotte, N.C. Robert Lahser, The Charlotte Observer (via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina‘s House speaker said Thursday that he’s asking Republican colleagues whether they want a special legislative session to address this week’s Charlotte City Council vote involving transgender people and public accommodations.

The next regularly scheduled session of the General Assembly is April 25, but the ordinance approved Monday by the Charlotte council takes effect April 1. Some GOP leaders, including Gov. Pat McCrory, are unhappy with part of the ordinance that would allow transgender people to choose public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

Speaker Tim Moore said he is listening to legislators after receiving a number of calls asking whether the legislature would return earlier.

“I’m fine doing it either way,” Moore said in a brief interview. Regardless of the session date, Moore said, he envisions legislation that at a minimum would apply statewide as it relates to stopping ordinances involving restroom use. He said he didn’t how much further it would go.

In the email sent Wednesday to the House Republican Caucus and obtained by The Associated Press, Moore said he believed the “recent radical actions” of the Charlotte City Council pose “a real danger to public safety.” He also mentioned parts of the ordinance that would place mandates upon private businesses.

Supporters of the ordinance say it’s an extension a broader effort to expand nondiscrimination protections to gay, lesbian and transgender customers and to treat them with dignity. Opponents of the bathroom provision say it would deny privacy to people who expect it inside bathrooms and locker rooms and could be used by sexual predators.

“While special sessions are costly, we cannot put a price tag on the safety of women and children,” Moore wrote. The Charlotte Observer first reported on the email.

Moore said he would ask Senate leader Phi Berger, R-Rockingham, to join him in calling a special session if Moore gets at least 72 House responses in favor. There are 75 members of the House GOP caucus.

The state constitution allows legislative leaders to convene special sessions with written support from three-fifths of legislators in both the House and Senate. Berger has not commented publicly this week on the Charlotte ordinance but criticized last fall an effort to force a Virginia school district to allow a high school student born female but who now identifies as male to use the boys bathroom.

McCrory warned some City Council members before Monday’s 7-4 vote that the legislature likely would intervene if the bathroom provision was passed. McCrory said this week that he would support statewide legislation pre-empting any similar local government rule.

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