RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — There is enough support among North Carolina House members to call a special session that would consider blocking Charlotte‘s new nondiscrimination ordinance with its rules on restroom use, the chamber’s leader said Thursday.
Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said he had received requests from more than three-fifths of the chamber’s 120 members to come back to Raleigh before the next session’s start on April 25. Moore began polling fellow House Republicans last week, soon after the Charlotte City Council voted for the new ordinance, which takes effect April 1.
The ordinance adds sexual orientation, gender identity and marital status as attributes protected from discrimination within public accommodations. Many GOP lawmakers and social conservatives have focused on the impending ability for transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity.
Critics of the provision say it would violate the privacy of people who shouldn’t have to use the restroom with a member of the opposite sex and could provide sexual predators an avenue to approach children or enter women’s locker rooms.
Each day the General Assembly meets in session costs the state $42,000.
“The vast majority of my fellow colleagues in the House and I believe the ordinance passed by the Charlotte City Council poses an imminent threat to public safety,” Moore said in a news release. “We understand that special sessions have a cost, but the North Carolina House is unwilling to put a price tag on public safety.”
Thirty of the 50 senators also would have to ask for the special session. Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said returning early to Raleigh is an option but told reporters he doesn’t yet know if there are enough who want to do that. Berger and other legislators held a news conference Thursday demanding Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper step in to say the ordinance can’t be enforced.
Cooper needs to “make a clear and unequivocal statement that this ordinance is invalid and illegal and basically to protect the citizens of this state,” said Sen. Buck Newton, R-Wilson. “If he won’t, we are prepared to take legislative actions to stop this nonsense and clear it up once and for all.”
Cooper told reporters earlier this week he sees no need for the state legislature to overturn the provision, saying there are more important things legislators should address. He also said the ordinance doesn’t change the ability of prosecutors and investigators to go after criminal offenders.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, has said the bathroom provision lacks common sense and would support a statewide law preventing Charlotte or any other local government to pass such a rule. He said he preferred the legislators wait until the April 25 session. Newton said he wants to repeal the ordinance entirely, saying Charlotte is not authorized to approve one.
Supporters of the ordinance, approved 7-4 by the council Feb. 22, say more protections for LGBT residents and visitors are needed to protect them from being denied services at hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
House Minority Leader Larry Hall, D-Durham, also wrote Moore on Thursday urging him not to call a special session “in an attempt to overturn the settled will of the local Charlotte electorate nor should we interfere with a city’s conduct of local business.”
Cooper is running for governor and blamed McCrory this week for pushing the repeal of the bathroom provision. McCrory’s office said it was Charlotte’s council that forced the issue. Newton is running in the March 15 Republican primary for attorney general.
Cooper campaign spokesman Jamal Little late Thursday called the news conference led by Newton “at best a partisan political sideshow for an attorney general candidate and worse, it’s misleading North Carolinians about how the law actually works.”