Earlier this week, the NCAA and ACC decided to pull their conferences out of North Carolina, citing the controversial bathroom bill as the reason for their decision. North Carolina State Sen. Tamara Barringer is a Republican who voted for the bill in March, but has since called on lawmakers to repeal the bill. She is one of two Republican senators in the state to do so. NPR's Kelly McEvers talks to Barringer about why she made that decision.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Most Republicans in North Carolina have held steady in defending a law that limits where transgender people can go to the bathroom. But since the law was passed, companies have pulled jobs out of the state, and the NBA moved its All-Star game. Then, this week, the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference said they would not hold title games in the state either. That was too much for Republican state Senator Tamara Barringer of suburban Wake County. This week, she came out and said the law, called HB2, should be repealed. I asked her why she voted for it in the first place.
TAMARA BARRINGER: I'm a mom, first and foremost. That's the most important job I have in life. And, of course, I, as a mother, am very concerned about safety and particularly privacy in bathrooms. The goal - safety and privacy - of the bill, I agree with. But what has occurred now is that the way the bill is drafted has created unintended consequences in North Carolina, both economically and also with some of our resources.
I have had concerns about this particular bill and the way it was drafted from the very beginning.
MCEVERS: What was the tipping point for you? What changed your mind?
BARRINGER: There's several factors that have changed my mind. It is having a tremendous adverse economic impact on the families of North Carolina. These are jobs. These are the way we support our families, the way we fund education. It is also creating the wrong impression of North Carolinians in the world or across the nation. Last week, I had the privilege of representing North Carolina on an education mission to Arizona State University.
But at lunch, someone asked the question - Senator Barringer, what is this HB2 thing? And that really caught me in my tracks - that, all the way across the country, someone is asking this. And then, finally, the other thing that has galvanized me is we have talked hundreds of hours - hundreds of hours since April about HB2. And yes, it is an important issue, but we need to move on to the business of North Carolina.
MCEVERS: You are up for re-election this fall, and it is a tight race. Your Democratic opponent, Susan Evans, says you are only doing this because you fear losing your seat. What do you have to say to that?
BARRINGER: Oh, I have no fear of losing my seat. This is not about politics. It's about policy in North Carolina. It's about moving the state I love so much and so dearly forward. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the politics.
MCEVERS: I know that just one of your Senate Republican colleagues has joined you in this call to repeal HB2 and another of your Republican colleagues in the House. I mean, that's just three of you. I mean, are you sticking your neck out here?
BARRINGER: Yes, I know some of my colleagues will - will not agree with me on this to the very end. I am hopeful, though, and I am hearing that there are others who are seriously considering this. And I hope that they are listening because this is so important to North Carolina.
MCEVERS: How many others are we talking about?
BARRINGER: At this point, I'm hearing that there are three or four that are considering it. And I also know that, in the Democratic Party, there are others who are very interested in doing so.
MCEVERS: Right, but we're still talking about a handful of people here. I mean, if the Republican leadership in the House and Senate and at - and, frankly, at the governor's office don't want to repeal this, a few people coming out and making these statements isn't really going to change this law.
BARRINGER: I believe that this is the right thing to do, and people are listening.
MCEVERS: You talked about wanting to get back to the real business in North Carolina. We're talking about this too much. I wonder, though, if this process has made you go back and rethink why you voted for the substance of this bill in the first place. Do you now believe that people should be able to use whatever bathroom that they identify with, gender-wise?
BARRINGER: I'm not prepared to answer that question at...
MCEVERS: Why not?
BARRINGER: ...This point - because I don't think we have a good definition of how to identify that or how we do that. But I will tell you that I am listening and open to hear that discussion.
MCEVERS: Do you have a plan for that?
BARRINGER: Yes. I think that we need to go into special session and people leave their biases at the door, sit down and all of us listen to each other. That's the only way good law or lasting law is going to be made.
MCEVERS: State Senator Tamara Barringer of Wake County, N.C., thank you very much for your time.
BARRINGER: This has been a real pleasure, Kelly. Thank you.