First, the basics, most of which you already know: on February 22, Charlotte's city council passed a nondiscrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity—the first such bill in the state, though not the country. Already, nineteen states and more than two hundred cities have passed similar legislation.
But those other cities don't have to deal with the North Carolina General Assembly. Immediately, Republican leaders labeled Charlotte's ordinance a "bathroom bill" that would allow men into women's restrooms. There were murmurs about a special session. Emails obtained by the INDY between Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest's office and legislative leaders show that Forest's office was talking about a special session as early as February 25; a week later, Forest formally asked legislators to convene one.
Before the bill was introduced at the start of the one-day special session on March 23, almost nobody knew what it actually contained. A draft version circulated the night before, but multiple Democratic legislators say they first saw the bill when the session was called to order at ten a.m.
In less than twelve hours, the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act—known colloquially by its bill number, HB 2—passed the House (with eleven Democrats and all but one Republican supporting it); passed the Senate unanimously, as the entire Democratic Senate caucus walked out in protest; and was signed by Governor McCrory before most people in North Carolina, let alone the rest of the country, knew what was in it.
The end result is perhaps best understood as two interwoven halves. The first was the LGBTQ piece that generated so much controversy. The second catered to the pro-business crowd, gutting the ability of local governments to set higher minimum wages and eliminating workers' ability to sue in state court over discrimination claims. (The legislature repealed that last provision in the short session that ended earlier this month.)
Together, these aspects of the bill sought to unify the business and social-conservative wings of the state party in an election year—and, critics argue, to use the pretext of bathroom panic to ram through controversial longtime policy goals.
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