The Hill: Pelosi denounces NC law blocking LGBT anti-discrimination measures

March 24, 2016
By Mike Lillis

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi condemned North Carolina's newly passed law that effectively blocks LGBT anti-discrimination legislation at the local level.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday during a sweep through Charlotte, the California Democrat said she's "saddened" by the law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory the night before.

Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal who has long fought for the expansion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights, characterized the news as a step backward in the battle for equality.

"I was very disappointed to arrive here and learn that this act of the legislature was signed into law by the governor," Pelosi said. "[It's] going against the tide of progress in our country for ending discrimination."

North Carolina's new law sets statewide anti-discrimination protections on basis of race, religion, color, national origins and sex, but excludes provisions based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The new law supersedes any anti-discrimination ordinances at the local level — such as the one recently passed by the city of Charlotte.

A large portion of the controversy centered on the Charlotte law’s provision that transgender people be able to use the public bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The new state law requires people to use only those public restrooms that match their sex at birth.

Republicans had called a special legislative session to consider the measure, and they pushed it quickly through the statehouse on Wednesday against the objections of most Democrats.

McCrory signed it into law Wednesday night.

Asked Thursday if Congress should step in to ensure that states don't undermine LGBT rights, Pelosi ticked off several victories the Democrats and other LGBT advocates have won in Washington in recent years. The list includes the passage of a hate crimes bill that included transgender people; President Obama's repeal of the Pentagon's long-standing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy; and last summer's Supreme Court decision ruling in favor of gay marriage.

But Pelosi also emphasized that there's more to be done. She pointed specifically to the 2015 Equality Act, which would apply all the protections contained in the 1964 Civil Rights Act to LGBT people. The bill is designed to end LGBT discrimination, not just in the workplace but across the gamut of public life.

"We have strong Democratic support — some Republican support — [and] that’s good, but we want that number to grow," Pelosi said. "And when we address that at the federal level, then it will end discrimination in the entire country."

Asked if the new law gives North Carolina a bad name, Pelosi was cautious.

"Well, North Carolina is a wonderful state. [It has] many things going for it," she said. "But the tide of history is to expand freedom and end discrimination. This is going in the opposite direction."

Pelosi is visiting Charlotte both to fundraise for the Democrats and to participate in a women's economic forum at the University of North Carolina's Charlotte campus.