Fact Check: The truth behind the North Carolina bathroom bill repeal

Are LGBT people better or worse off following the scrapping of House Bill 2? The Week finds out

Gender neutral bathroom sign
(Image credit: Sara D. Davis / Getty Images)

North Carolina has repealed it's so-called "bathroom bill" restricting which toilet transgender people must use, but LGBT activists warn its replacement is just as harmful. What are the facts?

What is the bathroom bill?

House Bill 2, or HB2, ruled that people must use the toilet corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate and not the gender they identified with.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The law applied in all state-run buildings, including schools, libraries and government offices.

It also overturned local statutes protecting LGBT people from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Its introduction in March 2016 sparked fierce criticism from civil rights groups, as well as boycotts by businesses and sports leagues. Forbes estimates North Carolina lost at least $630m (£504m) between March and December as a result.

What's changed?

Following the demonstrations and boycotts, the bathroom bill was overturned last week and replaced with new legislation allowing trans people to use the bathroom of their choice.

However, says Reuters, "they lack any recourse should a person, business or state entity eject or harass them".

Crucially, schools and other local government entities are still barred from extending legal protections to LGBT people until 2020.

Vox highlights the fact that private businesses will be allowed to block trans people from toilets and local governments will be "powerless" to stop them.

Since North Carolina has no state-wide non-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people, "it will continue to be legal across much of the state for an employer to fire someone, a landlord to evict someone solely because of the person's sexual orientation or gender identity", it adds.

Who says what?

Backing for the change has come from new Democratic governor Roy Cooper, who said the original bill had been "a dark cloud" hanging over the state.

"It has stained our reputation, it has discriminated against our people and it has caused great economic harm in many of our communities," he added.

Republican Senator Thom Tillis also said he was glad North Carolina had reached a "common sense compromise".

However, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dismissed the deal as a "fake repeal", saying it left some of the most discriminatory parts of the original bill in place.

"Let us be clear, this is no compromise," it said. "This is no repeal. This is HB2.0 and is perhaps more insidious in its targeting of LGBTQ and particularly of trans and gender non-conforming people."

Cooper, who ran his campaign on a promise to fully repeal the bill, acknowledged that the new legislation was "not perfect" but maintained that it was step in the right direction.

Who's right?

The deal cannot be considered a full repeal because although transgender people are now able to access the public toilet of their choice, members of the LGBT community remain just as vulnerable to discrimination.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.