RALEIGH, N.C. (TheBlaze/AP) — A bipartisan effort to pass a bill that would amend portions of North Carolina's controversial HB2 "bathroom bill" legislation passed earlier this year fell apart this week amid pressure from Attorney General Roy Cooper, WBTV-TV reported.
State lawmakers revisited the LGBT bill as part of their yearly legislative session.
After days of closed-door meetings to discuss possible changes, the North Carolina General Assembly voted Friday to restore workers' right to use state law to sue over employment discrimination. But the change won't enhance workplace protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, nor does it affect other provisions decried by the bill's high-profile critics.
"This was the lowest of the low hanging fruit. It does nothing to fix the core discrimination in that law," said Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake.
There was no desire 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.
A person involved in efforts to bring the bill to a vote, who asked that their name be withheld, told WBTV that efforts to bring the bill to the floor fell apart amid shifting support from a group of up to 10 House Democrats.
WBTV reported that the group of House Democrats had originally signed on to support the new bill. A number of people in that group, however, reportedly changed their minds after receiving calls from A.G. Cooper.
"We started losing Democrats,” the person involved in the negotiations told the local station. “We were told Cooper was making personal phone calls to the ten Democratic members saying if they wanted to be on the team in November they needed to vote against the bill.”
Cooper is the Democratic nominee for North Carolina Governor. His race against Republican Governor Pat McCrory is expected to remain close leading up to the election in November.
The revised bill heads to the desk of Gov. Pat McCrory, who pushed for the change. McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis told the Associated Press by email late Friday the governor "is pleased the General Assembly has acted on his request."
Democrats complained during floor debate that the most onerous provisions of the law weren't addressed.
Rep. Chris Sgro of Guilford County, who serves as executive director of Equality North Carolina, said: "While this is important, it doesn't go nearly far enough."
Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said the change on workplace lawsuits answered requests from McCrory and business leaders. But he reiterated his belief that the bathroom access provisions remaining in the law protect public safety.
"Protecting the safety and privacy of North Carolina families by keeping grown men out of bathrooms, shower facilities and changing rooms with women and young girls has always been our primary objective," Berger said in a statement.
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.