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Warren Fiske
By Warren Fiske December 5, 2016

McAuliffe wrongly links vetoed Virginia bill to North Carolina's bathroom law

Gov. Terry McAuliffe recently took credit for saving Virginia from passing a law similar to North Carolina’s HB2 act that dictates which public restrooms transgender people can use.

"I’ve had to veto some very bad bills," McAuliffe said Nov. 30 during his monthly radio show on WTOP in Washington. "We would be just like North Carolina with HB2-like legislation. It actually passed our chamber and I vetoed it."

Republicans, who control both houses of Virginia’s General Assembly, quickly mocked the Democratic governor’s claim. "Uh, no." the Republican Party of Virginia tweeted. "Why can't @GovernorVA simply tell the truth about this? Does he not even know what he vetoed?"

So we checked whether McAuliffe’s statement is correct.  It came at the end of a segment is which the governor said he thinks President-elect Donald Trump, a Republican, is not an "ideologue" on social issues and wants to focus on boosting the economy.

North Carolina

HR2, also called the "bathroom bill," was passed by North Carolina’s General Assembly on March 23, 2016, and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory that night. The state law has two main provisions:

*It requires transgender people to use the restrooms in many public facilities that correspond to the sex listed on their birth certificate instead of the sex with which they identify. The law applies to school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers as well as the facilities in state and local government buildings.

*It set a state definition of classes of people who are protected from discrimination based on their race, religion, color, national origin, age, handicap or "biological sex." Omitted from protection are transgender and gay people.

The law has triggered a fierce backlash. The NBA, in protest, yanked its 2017 all-star game from Charlotte. The Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA pulled collegiate championship games that were scheduled to played in North Carolina this year and next.

Financial service giants PayPal and Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans in North Carolina. Rock icons Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr canceled concerts in the state. All told, Forbes magazine estimated on Nov. 3 that the law had cost North Carolina $630 million in lost business.

Now, let’s move north.


Brian Coy, communications chief for McAuliffe, told us that the governor’s radio comment referred to his veto of a so-called "religious freedom" bill on March 30, 2016 - exactly one week after HB2 was signed in North Carolina.

Featured Fact-check

The Virginia bill would have protected ministers and religious entities from facing government-imposed penalties or civil liability for refusing to perform or host gay marriages.

The sponsor - Sen. Bill Carrico Sr., R-Grayson - said it would shield many religious people from being forced to act against their beliefs. Opponents said the legislation promoted bigotry against the LGBT community. The bill passed both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly on party-line votes with Republicans supporting it and Democrats opposed.

McAuliffe vetoed the measure on March 30, writing that the legislation, if signed, would send a message that Virginia is "more concerned with demonizing people than with creating a strong business climate."

You may have noticed that the Virginia bill, unlike the North Carolina legislation McAuliffe compared it to, didn’t mention restrooms. In fact, it had nothing to do with them. It didn’t restrict anyone’s use of bathrooms in state, local government or school buildings - let alone their use by transgender people. In substance, the bill was quite different from HB2.

Coy acknowledged those distinctions to us but stressed that the two bills have broad similarities: both are discriminatory and are bad for business growth.

McAuliffe "fully understands that the (Virginia) bill had different language than HB2 in North Carolina did," Coy wrote in an email. "His point is that it would have had very similar consequences in sending a message to businesses and individuals around the world that Virginia is a place where we sanction against LGBT people simply because of whom they love."

The governor, we should point out, offered no such elaboration during the radio broadcast.

A final note: There was a bathroom bill introduced in Virginia’s General Assembly that came pretty close to mirroring HR2. The legislation - introduced by Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania - would have required people to use the restrooms in schools and state-owned buildings that correspond to their "biological sex." The measure was killed by a House committee.

Our ruling

McAuliffe said, "We would be just like North Carolina with HB2-like (transgender bathroom) legislation. It actually passed our chamber and I vetoed it."

The governor vetoed a bill that would have protected ministers and religious entities from facing government-imposed penalties or civil liability for refusing to perform or host gay marriages.

HB2 says transgender people in North Carolina must use restrooms in schools and other government facilities that match with the sex listed on their birth certificates instead of the sex with which they identify. It raises the spectacle of government enforcing a law aimed against a tiny minority. It has provoked protests and boycotts from businesses, sports organizations and entertainers that have cost the state dearly.

The two bills are comparable in that they allow discrimination against members of the LGBT community. But they are very different in substance and it’s misleading for McAuliffe to say that his veto saved Virginia from being ‘just like North Carolina with HB2-like legislation."

We rate his statement Mostly False.


Our Sources

Terry McAuliffe, Comments on "Ask the Governor," WTOP Radio, Nov. 30, 2016.

Email from Brian Coy, director of communications for McAuliffe, Nov. 30, 2016.

Legislative Information System, SB41, "Religious freedom, solemnization of marriage," accessed  Nov. 30, 2016.   

General Assembly of North Carolina, House Bill 2, March 23, 2016.

Code of North Carolina, § 168A-3, definition of "place of public accommodation," accessed Nov. 30, 2016.

The Charlotte Observer, "Understanding HB2: North Carolina’s newest law solidifies state’s role in defining discrimination," March 26, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "McAuliffe vetoes religious freedom legislation, says it ‘demonizes folks,’" March 31, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "U.S. Supreme Court to hear Va. case," Oct. 29, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "Panel defeats transgender bathroom bill," Feb. 10, 2016.

Republican Party of Virginia, Twitter, Nov. 30, 2016.

Forbes,  "North Carolina's 'Bathroom Bill' Has Flushed Away $600 Million In Business And Could Dash Governor's Re-election Hopes," Nov. 3, 2016.

The News & Observer, "NC officials cited HB2 for Charlotte’s loss of 732-job project, emails show," Dec. 1, 2016.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, "CoStar to bring 730 new jobs to new HQ in Richmond," Oct. 25, 2016.

Legislative Information System, Governor’s veto, SB41, March 30, 2016.

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McAuliffe wrongly links vetoed Virginia bill to North Carolina's bathroom law

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