NCAA satisfied with North Carolina 'bathroom bill' replacement

But the group warned that discrimination will not be tolerated.

ByPaul Blake and Aaron Katersky
April 04, 2017, 12:30 PM

— -- The National Collegiate Athletic Association appears to be satisfied with the semi-repeal of North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill and is prepared to hold tournaments in the state once more.

The group, charged with organizing college basketball championships nationally, pulled seven tournament events from the Tar Heel State last summer, citing the 2016 law known as HB2, which barred people from using bathrooms that didn't match the sex indicated on their birth certificates.

Critics called the law anti-LGBT.

In a statement today, NCAA officials said the repeal bill, signed by the governor last week, "has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment."

Critics of the new bill, however, said that it doesn't go far enough to protect LGBTQ North Carolinians and tourists. The new bill — reached as a compromise between conservatives and progressives in state government — repeals HB2, but it still bars local governments, schools and other institutions from regulating who may use public showers, changing areas and multistall bathrooms; that is still the prerogative of the state legislature.

The new bill does not specifically address which bathrooms transgender people may use. As The Charlotte Observer's editorial board points out, the compromise bill "dodges the whole bathroom question."

It also prevents local governments from instituting nondiscrimination laws until December 2020.

"If you vote for this bill, you are not a friend of the LGBTQ community," Equality North Carolina Executive Director Chris Sgro told reporters last week.

Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said, "At its core, it's a statewide prohibition on equality."

But the NCAA said a majority of its board of governors "reluctantly voted" to allow the state to be considered for hosting future championship games. It also said championship games that it previously awarded to North Carolina for the 2017–18 season would "remain in the state."

"If we find that our expectations of a discrimination-free environment are not met, we will not hesitate to take necessary action at any time," the organization said.

Reacting to the NCAA's announcement, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, issued a statement saying, "While more work remains to be done, it's good news that the NCAA will be returning to North Carolina."

"We will continue our work with them to fight for statewide anti-discrimination protections for LGBT North Carolinians," he added.

HB2, passed in March 2016 and formally known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, mandated that state law overrule any local ordinances related to employment, wages and public accommodations. In effect, it prevented governments at the municipal level from establishing their own ordinances barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public accommodation and housing, most controversially in public bathrooms.

The bill kicked off a furor that garnered nationwide attention. LGBT activists and Democrats argued that the bill was discriminatory and was an intrusion on the rights of local governments.

Republicans in the state backed the bill after the city of Charlotte approved an ordinance that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

In testimony before the state Senate last year, North Carolina Family Policy Council President John Rustin said that the Charlotte ordinance meant that "men could enter women's restrooms and locker rooms — placing the privacy, safety and dignity of women and the elderly at great risk."

Over the course of a year, amid a heated presidential and gubernatorial election campaign, pressure mounted on North Carolina officials to repeal or modify HB2.

The NCAA, Atlantic Coast Conference and NBA pulled events from the state, effectively starving North Carolina of precious revenue that the events would generate. Meanwhile, several companies, including PayPal, scrapped plans to invest in the state, and many celebrities canceled concerts or other appearances.

An analysis by The Associated Press found that the bill would have "cost the state more than $3.76 billion in lost business over a dozen years."

North Carolina lost some 2,900 direct jobs because of companies changing their plans, according to the analysis by the AP.

In its statement today, the NCAA said its board would require any location hosting a championship event to "submit additional documentation demonstrating how student-athletes and fans will be protected from discrimination."

The University of North Carolina won the men's NCAA championship Monday night.

ABC News' Morgan Winsor and Will Gretsky contributed to this story, which was supplemented by Associated Press reporting.

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