WASHINGTON: North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday were weighing whether to scrap a law that served as a spark in America's "bathroom wars" over transgender identity and the broader cultural battle between conservatives and liberals.
The state assembly convened a special session early Wednesday to scrap so-called House Bill 2, which required transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificates -- not the one they identify as -- in schools and government buildings.
Television footage outside the chamber showed a handful of protesters holding handmade signs reading "Y'all means all" and "No hate in my State."
The law passed in March was widely condemned as discriminatory, and resulted in North Carolina suffering a string of business boycotts.
Performers such as Bruce Springsteen and major sports groups cancelled events, and there was blowback from corporate titans like Apple and Starbucks.
Democrats and Republicans reached an agreement to repeal the law in exchange for Charlotte -- North Carolina's most populous city -- dropping new gay rights provisions that were the trigger for the "bathroom law."
Republican Governor Pat McCrory is believed to have lost his re-election bid in November in part due to the law -- which his incoming Democratic successor is pushing to do away with.
Governor-elect Roy Cooper has argued forcefully that scrapping the bathroom law will help win back business and restore North Carolina's tarnished reputation.
Amid the fray in North Carolina, President Barack Obama in May issued instructions for all public school districts in America to let transgender kids use the restroom of their gender identity.
American conservatives howled in protest, deriding the idea as ridiculous government overreach and political correctness run horribly amok.
"Bathroom Wars' Goal: Humiliate the American Normal Majority," headlined an opinion piece in April on the ultra-conservative Breitbart News site -- then run by the man who is now President-elect Donald Trump's chief strategist, Steve Bannon.
"Welcome to life in totalitarian America, where even going to the bathroom and identifying the sex of an adult have now become intensely political acts," it added.
Even outside hardline circles, these are puzzling times for many American conservatives.
The US Supreme Court ruled last year that a marriage between people of the same sex is just as legitimate as one between heterosexuals.
And an Olympic sports hero whose face used to grace Wheaties cereal boxes is now a woman named Caitlin Jenner.
The issue of transgender rights echoed through the US presidential campaign that led to Trump's election.
The North Carolina gender law and others like it are widely seen as a backlash against the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling, with transgender people caught in the crossfire of a war between conservatives wed to traditional family values and progressives seeking greater rights for the LGBT community.
The US Supreme Court entered the debate in October, announcing that it will consider the case of a 17-year-old in Virginia who was born a female but identifies as a male and filed suit to be able to use the boys' bathroom at his high school.