NC State Senator Tom Apodaca Harry Lynch hlynch@newsobserver.com
NC State Senator Tom Apodaca Harry Lynch hlynch@newsobserver.com

Local

Apodaca calls for Charlotte to cover cost of special session over LGBT rights

By Derek Lacey

BlueRidgeNow.com

March 25, 2016 12:42 PM

UPDATED March 25, 2016 08:33 PM

State Sen. Tom Apodaca (R-Henderson) has asked his staff to look and see how the General Assembly can charge Charlotte to cover the costs of Wednesday’s special session, including the possibility of withholding the city’s sales tax revenues.

Lawmakers met Wednesday and passed a law invalidating a measure the Charlotte City Council passed last month to allow transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

“Charlotte brought this all upon themselves,” knowing exactly what they were getting into, Apodaca said.

The one-day special session convened at a cost of $42,000, according to the Associated Press, but Apodaca wondered if 18 senate Democrats who walked out on the Senate vote Wednesday deserved their per diem pay.

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Apodaca said he absolutely does not see the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act as discriminatory, and said the bill does not stop private businesses from offering a particular restroom if they so desire, but prevents government from mandating that they have to.

The bill passed the Senate 32-0 after Senate Democrats walked out in protest before the vote, something Apodaca called “ill-advised,” adding that Senate rules say that if a senator is present, they are to vote.

There were three or four bills presented, and the final bill is a hybrid of all of them, Apodaca said. It was not the toughest by any stretch of the imagination, he added, but “it’s what needed to be done.”

His concerns about Charlotte’s measure were mainly about men and children in restrooms, saying what worries him is if “somebody decided they were going to be a woman today.”

Apodaca, Senate Rules Committee chair, did not sign the form to call for the special session, saying he wanted first to see the bill and thought the issue could be handled during the General Assembly’s April session.

Calls came in about the issue from concerned parties, including schools worried about access to their locker rooms and showers, Apodaca said. Callers wanted something done before Charlotte’s measure would have taken effect on April 1.

But Apodaca’s office specifically only got three calls about the issue in the three weeks leading up to Wednesday’s session, he said, with two of those being from Charlotte. He got a few calls Wednesday, including from California.

Most of the senators he spoke to got very few calls aside from those representing the Charlotte area, he said.

Apodaca said consistent state statutes are needed.

“(We’re) talking about such a minor part of the population,” he said, chalking it up to less than one-half of 1 percent, and saying there are facilities available for transgendered people to use.

Rep. Chris Whitmire (R-Transylvania) could not be reached for comment, but in an email newsletter dated Wednesday, he wrote, “Today the N.C. General Assembly addressed this debauchery with a special session. This ordinance violated the North Carolina Constitution and infringed upon private property rights, religious liberty and free enterprise, among other indiscretions.”

Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) was unavailable for comment Thursday and absent from the House floor Wednesday due to a vacation he planned before Charlotte passed its ordinance, according to McGrady’s office.

North Carolina is not the only state restricting LGBT rights

From Georgia to Missouri, many U.S. states are considering or have passed laws that, when enacted, restrict rights to LGBT individuals. On March 23, North Carolina’s governor signed a bill that that prevents local governments from allowing people to use public accommodations based on their gender identity, sparking protests across the state.

Natalie Fertig / McClatchy