RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Democrats on Wednesday defended a new bill that overturns House Bill 2.
The Equality for All Act was introduced Tuesday into the North Carolina General Assembly. Democrats backing the bill said Wednesday at a news conference that the bill was necessary after a national backlash against House Bill 2.
They called the bill, House Bill 1078, the most comprehensive nondiscrimination legislation ever introduced in the state.
One sponsor of the nine-page bill, called The Equality for All Act, is Rep. Chris Sgro of Guilford, who is openly gay. Sgro is one of four primary sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Sgro said Wednesday, “The damage done by House Bill 2 has been terrible to watch.”
The others sponsoring the bill are Kelly Alexander Jr. of Mecklenburg, Pricey Harrison of Guilford and Susan Fisher of Buncombe.
At a news conference Wednesday, the mother of a transgender teen described the impact House Bill 2 has had on her son.
“He was doing wonderfully, a straight-A student in school, supported by his teachers and friends,” Hope Tyler said. “Everybody loved him. He was a mentor to other transgender children and then when he started hearing about talks of HB2 several months ago, he became suicidal.”
Sgro said, “It’s passed time that North Carolina includes these protected classes in our state laws. Our vibrant and innovative state should truly reflect our values of inclusion.”
However, the North Carolina General Assembly is dominated by Republicans, who have defended House Bill 2 despite an intense national discussion since the bill passed. Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, also has stood by the bill. McCrory and the General Assembly are now involved in lawsuits with the federal government over the matter.
The Equality for All Act includes language that says “protected status” would include sexual orientation and gender identity in addition to other categories like race, color, national origin, religion, sex, and disability.
The bill also strikes the words of “biological sex” and replaces it with sexual orientation and gender identity.
It also changes the current House Bill 2 by saying public accommodations (such as bathrooms) “shall provide access to such facilities based on a person’s gender identity.”
Sen. Ralph Hise, a Republican from Mitchell County, said the Equality for All Act would create problems for North Carolina businesses.
“Under the current system, they’re allowed to create any policies they want for their business and have liability for those policies that coming in,” he said. “We just haven’t seen the need to extend that kind of liability to all businesses in this state.”
The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it is likely to get some debate.