DURHAM, N.C.—The North Carolina General Assembly called lawmakers back to Raleigh on Wednesday for a special session. The reason wasn’t a pressing budget crisis, a natural disaster, or court-mandated redistricting. (That happened last month.)
Instead, legislators returned to the state house to overrule a local ordinance in Charlotte banning discrimination against LGBT people. A bill written for that purpose passed Wednesday evening and was signed by Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican. In the House, every Republican and 11 Democrats backed the bill. In the Senate, Democrats walked out when a vote was called, resulting in a 32-0 passage by Republicans. The law not only overturns Charlotte’s ban: It also prevents any local governments from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances, mandates that students in the state’s schools use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate, and prevents cities from enacting minimum wages higher than the state’s.
The push by Republican leaders is the latest front in a battle in the Old North State between liberal-leaning cities and more conservative areas of the state, and it’s also the latest front in a national battle over LGBT rights.
Charlotte’s updated ordinance was passed in February, after a contentious process. Existing rules prevented businesses from discriminating against customers based on race, age, religion, and gender, and the new ones added gay, lesbian, or transgender customers to the list. The most controversial provision allows transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender with which they identify. Such provisions are not uncommon—many major cities, as well as smaller ones, have them on the books.