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North Carolina Passes Controversial Transgender Law

Rep. Julia Craven Howard, R-Davie, foreground, and other North Carolina lawmakers gather for a special session Wednesday, March 23, 2016.

The southeastern U.S. state of North Carolina has passed a law banning local governments from allowing transgender people to use public restrooms and locker rooms for the gender with which they identify.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, a Republican, signed the bill on Wednesday, after the state legislature convened a special session to pass the measure quickly.

The new law was timed to take effect before the city of Charlotte could enact its new law allowing transgender people to use public restrooms that correspond with their gender identity rather than their biological sex (the gender recorded on a baby's birth certificate).

Opening the special one-day session of the legislature was reported to have cost $42,000.

The state law was not passed without argument. In the state House of Representatives, about a third of the Democrats voted for the law along with the Republicans. In the state Senate, all 11 Democrats walked out of the chamber in protest, leaving the 32 Republicans -- who would have won the vote anyway -- to pass the measure with no opposition.

Supporters of the new state law say allowing transgender people to use the restroom of their choice would give men easy access to women's bathrooms and vice versa, allowing potential predators to enter those restrooms by claiming they were transgender.

Opponents of the state law say transgender access laws in other places have not had those results.

The law does not apply to single-occupant bathrooms.

The new state law also creates North Carolina's first statewide nondiscrimination policy for public places, including hotels, restaurants, and taxis. But it does not include protection for sexual orientation or gender identification (gay and transgender people) and also prohibits local governments from extending protection to those groups.

Other U.S. states such as South Dakota and Tennessee have tried to pass such laws recently, but failed.