Two House Republicans and two Democrats sponsored the measure that would repeal House Bill 2, the law approved last March. But the proposal contains add-ons that led gay rights groups as well as Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper - who prefers a simple repeal - to immediately pan the measure.
READ HOUSE BILL 186 HERE (.pdf)
HB2 requires transgender people to use multi-stall restrooms in public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates and blocks expansion of LGBT rights in local ordinances and state law. It drew national protests.
Republican state Rep. Chuck McGrady, one of the four sponsors of House Bill 186, said he hopes it can secure enough votes for passage in his chamber. A deal between Cooper and Republican legislative leaders in December to repeal HB2 fell apart amid political acrimony.
"It's a bill that I view as sort of a bipartisan path forward to deal with an issue that is very complex and needs to be resolved," McGrady told reporters.
The other sponsors of the bill are Republican Rep. Ted Davis Jr., and Democrats Rep. Marvin Lucas and Rep. Ken Goodman.
GOP lawmakers approved HB2 in response to Charlotte city leaders approving a controversial February 2016 ordinance that would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. The state law prompted some businesses and sporting events to spurn North Carolina. The NBA moved its All-Star game out of Charlotte, and the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference withdrew championship events this academic year.
Attempts at a resolution have mounted after a state sports association warned legislators the NCAA would soon remove from consideration local bids to host events through 2022, barring action on HB2.
"I feel like I can get a majority of Republicans and majority of Democrats on this bill if Gov. Cooper will help me get those Democratic votes, and I think that this is a good start," McGrady said.
Cooper seemed skeptical of the new legislation.
"We must repeal House Bill 2 and I remain committed to getting that done," Cooper said in a statement. "But I am concerned that this legislation as written fails the basic test of restoring our reputation, removing discrimination, and bringing jobs and sports back to North Carolina. I will keep working with the legislature."
Any bill also would need to pass the GOP-led Senate. Both chambers would either need to have overwhelming Republican support or decent backing from both Democrats and Republicans to withstand any potential veto from Cooper. Cooper offered his own legislation last week, but even the same LGBT rights groups against Wednesday's proposal opposed his offer.
Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro said anything but a "clean repeal of HB2" is "a distraction from the real issue."
Under the legislation, state lawmakers would still control policy decisions over the use of multi-stall bathrooms in public buildings. Cities could expand other anti-discrimination protections, like those covering sexual orientation, after a four-month process. But a referendum on the ordinance would be required if opponents get above a threshold of signatures of registered voters in the city.
"Discriminating against gay and transgender people is bad. Removing state cause of action for employment discrimination on the basis of race or gender is bad. Preventing municipalities from setting their own minimum wage walls is bad. ... losing on 6 years of NCAA tournament games and losing the NBA All Star game. All bad," Sgro said.
Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson of Raleigh said the referendum was "a non-starter for me ... I never think that it's a good idea to put the rights of the minority on the ballot."
The measure also would increase penalties for certain crimes that occur in public restrooms or locker rooms. It would address concerns by some HB2 supporters that letting people use public bathrooms based on gender identity could be used as a pretense by sexual predators. But there's little evidence the issue is a widespread problem.
"We don't need a referendum that will hurt cities' abilities to govern, put civil rights on the ballot and cause hundreds of mini HB2s across the state of North Carolina for years to come," Sgro said. "Can you imagine that kind of sustained economic damage and what kind of decades-long debate that we will face?"
Social conservatives, meanwhile, say HB2 should remain in place and have lobbied lawmakers to preserve the law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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