RALEIGH, N.C. — A bill that advocates say could open the doors to widespread anti-LGBT discrimination won’t be getting a hearing in North Carolina’s House of Representatives this year.
House Speaker Tim Moore confirmed that the bill is dead this session on Thursday.
“For this session, the bill is not going to move,” Moore said at a Thursday press conference. “This bill in its current format, at the current time, is not the proper path to go.”
The decision came after a GOP caucus meeting which reportedly divided Republican lawmakers. The bill has been a pet project of House Speaker Pro Tempore Paul Stam, who said he didn’t know of the decision to quash the bill until it had been made.
LGBT advocates, meanwhile, are praising the decision. The bill, similar to those which provoked strong backlash in Indiana and Arkansas, could have allowed for discrimination against LGBT people in almost every area of business, they say.
“Today, true North Carolina values of fairness and justice prevailed with the announcement that the state’s so-called ‘Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (or RFRA) would no longer be considered in the General Assembly’s 2015-2016 session,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said in a Thursday statement. “This decision is a testament to the actions of thousands of North Carolinians — from business leaders to faith communities to a majority of North Carolina voters — who made their voices heard over the past several months through emails, letters, calls and in-person meetings and who pushed back on the notion that religion should ever be used to discriminate against North Carolinians.”
The need for the bill had previously been questioned by Moore, along with Gov. Pat McCrory.
Anti-LGBT hate groups in the state are not pleased with Moore’s decision.
“We continue to believe that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is important to preserving religious freedoms for everyone, and we will continue to work hard because 90 percent of all North Carolinians agree that religious freedom deserves protection,” Tami Fitzgerald, director of the NC Values Coalition, said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the Senate is committed to preserving religious freedom and by their boldness to stand up for the citizens of North Carolina.”
A separate bill, Senate Bill 2, will still be heard this year. Moore expects the House to vote on it in May. That bill would allow magistrates and registers of deeds to opt out of performing civil marriage services due to their own sincerely held religious beliefs. Equality NC is pushing its members to continue to oppose the bill.