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N.C. State Rep. Ken Goodman Stands Behind 'Bathroom' Law

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here's what PayPal, 20th Century Fox and Bruce Springsteen have in common - they've all said they'll have nothing further to do with North Carolina. It was a reaction to a new state law, whose most controversial element would require people to use public bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. That state law, in turn, was a reaction to a local ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte - that would have allowed people to use those facilities based on what gender they identify with. Earlier this morning, we reached one of the lawmakers who voted for the state law, Democratic Rep. Ken Goodman. And I asked him why it was so important for the state to counter that ordinance in Charlotte, which was intended as a nondiscrimination law.

KEN GOODMAN: The way the ordinance was written, it allowed anybody to use any restroom or locker room. You didn't have to be transgender. It was written for transgender people. But it opened bathrooms up for use of any - for anyone.

MONTAGNE: Well, could - has that been a problem? I mean, is it been happening and people are worried about it? I mean, why the law?

GOODMAN: Well, it has not been a problem to my knowledge. Actually, I think a lot of people that I encounter are total - were totally unaware of transgender people or the issue at all.

MONTAGNE: Are you - are you surprised by the amount of national attention that this law has received?

GOODMAN: I'm very surprised and very disappointed. I think the media initially mischaracterized and pretty much sensationalized the bill. And it seems like once the ball got rolling, there was a bandwagon effect with businesses and the national media as well.

MONTAGNE: Well, PayPal canceled plans to open a new center in Charlotte that would have employed 400 people. A&E and Fox says they're not going to film in North Carolina, some talk of conventions pulling out. I mean, how much does this concern you?

GOODMAN: It does to some degree. And I certainly don't want to do anything to hurt the economy or the reputation of the state of North Carolina. But at the same time, PayPal has to decide where they want to locate. And a lot of these film companies won't come here anyway, unless we provide a lot of incentive money for them to do it. So I think at the end of the day, most companies will decide to locate where there are good schools, good roads, good environment and where they can make money. A lot of industries certainly had no problem leaving North Carolina to move to oppressive countries to manufacture their goods. So I think eventually they will settle down. And once the brouhaha subsides, I think they will come where it's in their economic interests.

MONTAGNE: Well, only about a quarter of the Democrats, like you, being a Democrat in the state House, supported the bill. One of them, Billy Richardson, said he made a mistake. I mean, is there a point at which - because there are gender-neutral bathrooms in a lot of restaurants and different places, I mean, you do find them - is there a point at which you think legislators would feel enough pressure to repeal this law?

GOODMAN: I don't think the law is going to be repealed. I think there may be some narrowing of the focus of the law. But again, anyone who wants to provide gender-neutral restrooms can do it. There's no law that says you can't. My wife is an educator, and she gave me the best answer on this that I've heard. She said if you ask any 5-year-old kindergarten student should you mistreat someone because of who they love, they would all say no. But at the same time, if you ask the same 5-year-olds should boys be in girls bathrooms, they would also say no. So I think that's the issue here for a lot of North Carolinians.

MONTAGNE: Well, thank you very much for joining us.

GOODMAN: OK. Well, thank you.

MONTAGNE: North Carolina State Rep. Ken Goodman. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.