US & Canada

North Carolina governor wants to change 'anti-gay' law

Opponents of House Bill 2 protest across the street from the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, North Carolina Image copyright AP
Image caption The law has sparked several protests outside the state capitol in Raleigh

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has said he wants to make changes to a controversial new state law condemned by business groups, activists and celebrities as anti-gay.

The law invalidated several local anti-discrimination measures that protected gay and transgender people.

It also requires people to use public toilets that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificates.

The state's anti-discrimination rules should be strengthened, McCrory said.

However he said the restrictions on access to public toilets should remain.

Major companies such as Bank of America and Apple have criticised the law and others vowed to curtail their businesses in the state because of it.

The fallout included:

  • Pay Pal dropped plans to open an operations centre in the state that would have employed about 400 people
  • Deutsche Bank stopped plans to add 250 jobs to the state
  • Rock singer Bruce Springsteen cancelled a concert in Greensboro
  • A TV production for the streaming service Hulu relocated to Canada
  • Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau said five groups have cancelled conventions with 16 others considering

Mr McCrory acknowledged receiving a large amount of "feedback" about the law over the past few weeks.

"Based upon this feedback, I am taking action to affirm and improve the state's commitment to privacy and equality," he said.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr McCrory said the restrictions on public toilets should stay in place

Under Mr McCrory's suggested changes, gay, lesbian and transgender people would be able to sue in state court over discrimination. That change would require the approval of the legislature.

Using an executive order, Mr McCrory will expand the equal employment policy for state employees to include sexual orientation and gender.

He also affirmed that private businesses are able to set their own policies regarding public toilets.

Gay rights activists said Mr McCrory's actions to did not go far enough and called for a full repeal of the law.

The state American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is challenging the law in court, said the governor was making "a poor effort to save face".

North Carolina is one of a number of states in the southern US that have recently considered or enacted legislation that many deem anti-gay.

Last June, a US Supreme Court ruling made gay marriage legal nationwide. In response, conservatives have sought to enact protections for religious people who believe marriage should only be between a man and woman.

Last year, Indiana made changes to a "religious freedom" law after business groups and others threatened to boycott the state. The updated law included language that prohibited discrimination of any kind.

This week, Mississippi passed a religious freedom law. That measure, however, specifically allows people to refuse service to gay people on religious grounds.

Georgia's Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar bill in March after pressure from prominent firms including Coca-Cola and the Walt Disney Co.

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