By Colleen Jenkins
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – North Carolina’s leading Republican lawmakers and Democratic governor hit a fresh impasse on Tuesday over a fix for a state law that restricts bathroom access for transgender people, putting lucrative hosting duties for NCAA championships at risk.
State Senate leader Phil Berger and House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore held an evening news conference to announce a tentative deal to repeal the bathroom measure, which has spurred boycotts by corporations, conventions and concerts.
They credited Governor Roy Cooper with making the proposal, but the governor’s office quickly issued a statement saying no suitable compromise had been reached.
The stalemate came hours after a local sports official said the NCAA would not let North Carolina host college sports championship events through 2022 unless there are changes to the law commonly known as House Bill 2 by Thursday.
“If HB 2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids,” Scott Dupree, executive director for the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said in a statement on Twitter.
He said a “contact very close to the NCAA” had confirmed the impending deadline.
Asked for comment, NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent referred to a statement by the governing body for U.S. college athletics last week on the one-year anniversary of the law. In it, the NCAA maintained HB 2 did not assure a discrimination-free atmosphere for events.
North Carolina is the only state that bars transgender people from using government-run restrooms that match their gender identity. The law also limits protection from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
A prior repeal bid failed during a one-day special legislative session in December.
By then, the NCAA had stripped North Carolina of championship events scheduled for the current academic year in protest of the law, including two rounds of this month’s Division I men’s basketball tournament.
The organization has said it would begin selecting sites this week for events through spring of 2022.
On Tuesday, Berger and Moore announced a deal that would repeal HB 2 and give the state the authority to regulate multi-occupancy bathrooms and shower facilities, which they said would safeguard privacy. But Berger told reporters they spoke with Cooper on their way to the news conference, and the governor denied making the proposal.
Cooper spokesman Ford Porter accused the lawmakers of a political stunt. He said the governor objected to a provision that he said would allow discrimination to persist by permitting people to sue over claims of their “rights of conscience” being violated.
(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott)