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North Carolina 'bathroom bill' replacement could doom similar bills in other states

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - North Carolina’s replacement on Thursday of a law prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identity could be the death knell for similar restrictions still being considered in about a dozen other states.

FILE PHOTO: Opponents of North Carolina's HB2 law limiting bathroom access for transgender people protest in the gallery above the state's House of Representatives chamber as the legislature considers repealing the controversial law in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. on December 21, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

Measures similar to North Carolina’s House Bill 2, the so-called bathroom bill, were filed in 16 states this legislative session. Momentum had already slowed for most of the bills and some of them had failed.

“Republicans in the state that was in vanguard, North Carolina, are now signaling that this legislation was not, in the end, in the best interest for their state, either for its economy or its reputation,” said Mark Jones, a professor of political science at Rice University in Houston.

North Carolina lawmakers said they acted to replace the law in hopes of ending boycotts by businesses and sports leagues that considered the year-old measure discriminatory. The boycotts cost the Southern state’s economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

Supporters of the restrictions have said the measures offer common-sense solutions that will help keep sexual predators out of bathrooms and changing facilities. Opponents say the measures are unenforceable and promote discrimination against an already marginalized group of people.

None of the states that proposed similar legislation this session has enacted a version into law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks statehouses.

Proposals introduced in South Dakota, Virginia, Montana and Wyoming failed to pass, according to the organization and news reports.

In Tennessee, a bathroom bill died in a Senate committee without a debate. The state’s Republican lieutenant governor questioned the need after Republican President Donald Trump’s administration in February revoked the former Obama administration’s landmark guidance to public schools letting transgender students use the bathrooms of their choice.

On Wednesday, Arkansas state Senator Linda Collins-Smith, a Republican, withdrew the bathroom bill she had proposed in that state. She instead recommended the issue for study in committee after facing pressure from the state’s pro-business governor and business groups to drop it.


After North Carolina, a similar measure proposed in Texas, the most populous Republican-controlled state, has drawn the closest attention. It has already cleared the Texas Senate and moved further than the similar legislation proposed this session in the other states, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

A key backer of Texas’ bathroom measure that restricts bathroom access for transgender people and is known as Senate Bill 6, was undeterred by North Carolina’s change of course.

“The actions in North Carolina do not affect what we have done in Texas,” Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said in a statement. He previously said the law would have no economic impact on the state.

But the Republican speaker of the Texas House of Representatives said last week the bill would face a tough time in that chamber because of worries over economic fallout.

Alabama Republican state Senator Phil Williams said North Carolina’s action would not affect similar restrictions he proposed for his state.

Bathroom bills will remain on the legislative landscape this year in many states, analysts said.

“There are people for whom this is part of their constituency and their agenda and they campaigned on it,” said Sherri Greenberg, a clinical professor at the University of Texas at Austin Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Steve Barnes in Little Rock, Ark. and Daniel Trotta in New York; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney