Lawmaker: North Carolina LGBT law will largely stay intact

A North Carolina law limiting protections for LGBT people, which stoked a national debate over transgender rights when it was approved in March, appears unlikely to see any major revisions during this year's legislative session. A top lawmaker said Friday that only a portion related to workplace lawsuits will be amended.

House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters that he expected the General Assembly to restore workers' right to use state law to sue over employment discrimination, but that was the only change he expected. Such a change wouldn't enhance workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity without further revisions to the law.

Both chambers were holding floor sessions with an eye toward wrapping up for the year.

Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett and the House Rules Committee chairman, said Friday night that the exact wording on the change hadn't been settled, but he expected it to be resolved before the session ends.

"There is largely agreement, as the governor has requested, to restore the right to sue — or clarify that the right to sue in state courts does exist," he said.

There has been no appetite among Republican lawmakers to undo a requirement that transgender people must use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates in many public buildings. That provision of the law lies at the heart of two legal challenges and has raised some of the biggest objections from equality advocates.

The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections.

Pressure to change the law has come from several quarters including the NBA, which has been weighing whether to keep the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte. Commissioner Adam Silver said this month that progress was needed toward changing the law this summer to ensure the event stays in the city.

The league issued a joint statement late Thursday with the Charlotte Hornets saying they were doubtful that proposed changes would go far enough and that they "do not endorse the version of the bill that we understand is currently before the legislature."

Asked about the league's stance, Moore said: "We've had conversations with the NBA and had discussions. But you know the process, I don't think lends itself to pass legislation — perhaps what they might want to see."

The legislature approved giving Gov. Pat McCrory's office $500,000 to defend the law in court, transferring the money from a disaster relief fund. The move drew jibes from gay rights advocates.

"Our coastal communities especially will not appreciate that," said Rep. Chris Sgro of Guilford County, who serves as executive director of Equality North Carolina.

Moore later said the state has plenty set aside to respond to disasters and blamed North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, for refusing to defend the law in court.

The law also throws into question the state's viability as a host for NCAA sporting events. Weeks after North Carolina's law was enacted, the association passed a measure requiring host sites to demonstrate that they are "free of discrimination."

Entertainers including Bruce Springsteen have canceled concerts to protest the law, while scores of business leaders signed a letter seeking its repeal. Rallies to support the law, meanwhile, drew thousands of conservatives to Raleigh.

Advocacy groups led by the Human Rights Campaign signed a letter Friday saying that nothing short of a full repeal would fix the law.

"Any attempt to pass additional discriminatory legislation will be seen for what it is — a shameful political ploy designed to give some lawmakers cover as the state continues to discriminate against its LGBTQ citizens," said JoDee Winterhof, a senior official overseeing political affairs for the HRC.