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Pro-LGBT protesters greet returning North Carolina lawmakers

Opponents of the new law marched on the state's capitol demanding the repeal of a law that insists transgender people use the bathroom corresponding with their birth certificates.

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The executive director of Equality North Carolina, Chris Sgro, leads a group carrying petitions calling for the repeal of House Bill 2 to Gov. Pat McCrory's office at the state Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C., Monday. Tempers are flaring as supporters and opponents of the new North Carolina transgender law hold competing rallies to sway legislators starting their annual session.

Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP

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Opponents of the North Carolina law that requires transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate delivered petitions with around 180,000 signatures to the state's Capitol on Monday.

The signatures were directed to Gov. Pat McCrory's (R) office and demanded a repeal of the law that has drawn national attention and led to an economic backlash that has included well-known performers canceling shows and big companies putting a freeze on hiring. But conservatives see the new law as a boon.

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The law, which passed during a special session in March, was seen as a major win by Christian conservatives after the Supreme Court's passing of the gay marriage bill last year. To lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocates, however, House Bill 2, as it's known, was something of a personal assault.

"HB2... is an act of violence," Joaquin Carcano, a transgender man who's suing over the law, told the crowd gathered on the grounds of the old Capitol building. "Our privacy and safety matter too," Mr. Carcano said, according to the Associated Press.

Similar debates have created various state flashpoints, causing fracases for state level Republicans, as the Monitor's Patrik Jonsson reported earlier this month:

  • Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R), who is not facing reelection, vetoed a religious liberty bill this month, saying his state did not need to "discriminate" against anyone. While the veto reassured those sensitive to LGBT rights, it alienated much of Governor Deal's evangelical base, shaking his working relationship with Republican lawmakers.
  • South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, also a Republican, recently vetoed a bill requiring schools to enforce a "gender-at-birth-only" bathroom rule.
  • Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has slowed the movement of a bill very similar to the one in North Carolina. Governor Haslam is a firmly pro-business Republican.
  • Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant earlier this month signed a new religious liberty bill. It's been described as the most radical religious freedom bill in the country, protecting from government sanctions anyone who refuses to serve LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs. Gov. Bryant has said he sees no discriminatory intent.

"Our state is a state of crisis," Chris Sgro, executive director of the Equality North Carolina advocacy group, said at a news conference in Raleigh before the petitions were delivered to Republican Governor Pat McCrory's office.

The Blue Man Group threatened to cancel its shows in Charlotte unless the law was repealed, and Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen have also added their voices to the chorus critical of the law.

Supporters of the law planned their own demonstration. They say the law is needed to protect privacy rights and keep women and children safe from sexual predators.

"Our goal is to show the nation what it looks like to see churches, families and people from all political parties, in unity, praying for our leaders and asking them to continue to protect our families," a statement from the NC Values Coalition said.

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Rev. William Barber, the head of the state NAACP, called the law "Hate Bill 2." He said it affects the poor and minorities as well as the LGBT community, despite conservative efforts to depict it as a law focused on bathroom safety. A broader provision in the law prohibits cities and towns in North Carolina from enacting their own civil rights ordinances.

"We make a mistake when we call it the 'bathroom bill,'" he said.

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.