North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory [official website] on Wednesday signed into law a bill [text, PDF] that prevents local governments from enacting their own nondiscrimination ordinances. Under the new law, which was passed [legislative materials] by both chambers of the state’s legislature [official website] during a special session, cities and counties will be unable to pass laws allowing transgender people to use the public restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. It also requires public school students to use the school bathroom or locker room that corresponds tot their sex at birth. The move came as a response to a measure passed in Charlotte, North Carolina, last month, which created greater protections against discrimination for gender expression and identity. While some have praised the bill as a protection of privacy rights for citizens, it has been called “horribly discriminatory” by others, including the legal director of North Carolina’s American Civil Liberties Union, who expressed disappointment [Reuters report] at its passage.
Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity has been a controversial issue in the US. Last week the Georgia state legislature approved a bill to allow faith-based establishments, including churches, schools and other organizations, to refuse service or employment [JURIST report] to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs. Earlier this month the Kentucky Senate approved a bill allowing businesses to refuse service [JURIST report] to gays and lesbians based upon their religious beliefs. Also this month South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill [JURIST report] thatwould have required public school students to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding to their sex at birth. In December a judge for the US District Court for the Central District of California ruled [JURIST report] that sexual discrimination is prohibited under a law that protects gender-based discrimination. In November President Barack Obama expressed support [JURIST report] for legislation that would ban discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity through an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In July 2014 Obama signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity [JURIST report] but, despite pressure, did not include any exemptions for religious organizations.