North Carolina lawmakers are reportedly considering several alterations to HB2, the state's infamous anti-trans "bathroom bill," as its legislative session draws to a close—but the changes apparently being proposed would only cement the discrimination at HB2's heart.
As local news outlet WBTV reported, North Carolina's House Republican leadership has drafted language intended to "walk back" parts of HB2, which served to limit access to public restrooms for transgender people. The bill's passage in late March set off a dramatic firestorm of controversy both within North Carolina and around the country, and helped push the issue of transgender rights to the fore of the national conversation.
According to documents obtained by WBTV, the new legislation being circulated will, among other things, create a "certificate of sex reassignment," an official document that will serve to verify a trans person's gender identity—but only with the notarized testimony of a doctor, following a gender reassignment operation.
The draft legislation reads:
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 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.
In essence, this language serves to limit the definition of "transgender" to that of someone who has undergone gender reassignment surgery, thereby leaving any trans people who have not had surgery unable to qualify. It also, in effect, mandates that trans people carry official state documentation in order to use public toilets.
The new legislation, which is reportedly still being discussed in the inner workings of the state Republican party caucus, also increases penalties for certain crimes committed in public restrooms, including "taking indecent liberties with children," a concern many HB2 proponents raised as justification for their initial support of the bill—despite there being no evidence of any assaults committed by trans people using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.
Speaking with the Charlotte Observer, Republican Representative Chuck McGrady said, "My expectation is there will be a bill related to House Bill 2 before the end of session. But what the nature of that bill will be is unclear."
The move to draft amending language for HB2 reportedly came after the state faced pressure from the National Basketball Association. The NBA had previously voiced concerns over the bill, and suggested that failure to address the law's underlying problems could result in the state's loss of the 2017 Championship games, slated to take place in Charlotte.
However, LGBTQ advocates in North Carolina and beyond are less than impressed with the proposed changes.
Representative Chris Sgro, the only openly gay member of the North Carolina General Assembly, and the executive director of NC Equality Now, told me in a phone call that the tweaks do nothing to fix the bigotry at the heart of the bill.
"The draft language that I've seen in no way addresses the problems that House Bill 2 caused," he said. "It's not a solution. It's House Bill 2.0. It just doubles down on the worst provisions that we saw in the original House Bill 2. It does not address municipal authority to pass non-discrimination laws. It does not address the ability of a transgender person to use the correct restroom that matches their gender identity. It does not reinstate municipal authority over minimum and living wage laws. It's really lip service and it's going to fall flat."
Rep. Sgro explained that he'd heard "rumblings" about a potential measure to amend HB2, but was unsure whether the language being circulated would ever make it to a final vote. Ultimately, though, he says the draft's unattributed Republican origin is problematic in and of itself
"This is entirely an effort that's led by people who made the mistake the first time, and are not seeking input from the communities that are the most impacted," he said.
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also spoke out against the rumored revisions.
"Anyone who cares about equality must reject this ridiculous proposal out of hand," he said in an email to Fusion. "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."
Update, 7/1/16: BuzzFeed reports the NBA and the North Carolina-based Charlotte Hornets franchise have released a joint statement addressing the proposed changes. It reads:
We have been engaged in dialogue with numerous groups at the city and state levels, but we do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature. We remain committed to our guiding principles of inclusion, mutual respect and equal protections for all. We continue to believe that constructive engagement with all sides is the right path forward. There has been no new decision made regarding the 2017 NBA All-Star Game.