GOP sponsors say new bathroom bill not a 'trans thing'

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Critics say HB562 is another version of HB2.

A Republican lawmaker and supporter of HB562 doubled down Thursday on what the new "bathroom bill" entails.

Filed earlier this week, HB562 enhances the penalties for second-degree trespassing to a Class 1 Misdemeanor if the trespasser is caught in a multi-occupancy bathroom, shower, or changing facility. Currently, a Class 1 Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 120 days in jail. The bill comes on the heels of last week's HB2 compromise and the reinstatement of athletic events by the NCAA.

In a Wednesday interview with ABC11, Ames Simmons of the LGBT advocacy group Equality NC, said, "We don't know if this bill is going to go anywhere or not. It just seems like a very transparent attempt to target transgender people in North Carolina."

The bill makes no mention of transgender people. In fact, as written it targets only a presumed male offender: "A person commits the offense of second degree trespass if, without authorization, he enters or remains on premises of another..."

ORIGINAL STORY: DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT A NEW 'BATHROOM BILL' IS IN THE WORKS

On Thursday, ABC11 went to Republican Rep. Brenden Jones' office for comment. Jones is a primary sponsor of HB562. When approached, Jones declined to comment and rejected repeated requests for an interview.

Later in the evening, a co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. Chris Malone (Wake-District 35), doubled down on what the bill is not.

READ HOUSE BILL 562 HERE (.pdf)

"A lot of people have asked questions about this being a trans thing. Never occurred to me. Never thought of it," Malone said. "Now, granted, some obviously do, and it makes me feel sad that they think that. And if we did anything that makes them feel that, then I'm sad for that. But it wasn't the intention. It wasn't anything that came to our mind in any of our discussions."

Gov. Roy Cooper's spokesperson, Ford Porter, issued a statement to ABC11.

"Governor Cooper thinks this is the last thing we need right now and he's not supportive," Porter said. "He applauds this week's federal court decision on workplace protections and believes we need to be focused on extending statewide protections to LGBT North Carolinians."

Given the timing of HB562, critics are viewing the bill, as well as the Senate's version with verbatim language, as a step backward.

"I think people try to read things into other things that they don't need to and maybe we don't have anything to worry about regarding sexual predators, but maybe it's good to have that in your back pocket," Malone said.

After the HB2 compromise was passed, the NCAA said North Carolina legislators had "minimally achieved" what the organization found to be acceptable in reinstating athletic events to the state.

ABC11 reached out to the NCAA for comment on the new House and Senate bill proposals and has not yet received a response.

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