North Carolina lawmakers failed Wednesday to repeal a law regulating transgender people’s use of public restrooms, despite convening in a special legislative session for the express purpose of rescinding the controversial law.

The legislature adjourned Wednesday evening after a brutal day in which Republicans feuded over whether to fully or partially repeal the measure, and Democrats accused them of reneging on a pledge to eliminate completely the so-called “bathroom bill,” which requires people to use the public restroom that matches with the sex on their birth certificate regardless of their gender identity.

After a series of attempts to come to an agreement, the Senate voted down a bill to repeal the law and the House adjourned without acting. They are both scheduled to next convene in January.

Gay and transgender rights groups immediately condemned the outcome of the nine-hour session, in which they criticized Republicans for preserving the “hateful” legislation that had led to boycotts, cost the state millions of dollars in lost tourism revenue and prompted the NBA and the NCAA to move games.

“Today, the public trust has been betrayed once again. Lawmakers sent a clear message: North Carolina remains closed for business,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.

Republicans, meanwhile, blamed Democrats, who rejected a version of the repeal that would have included a six-month moratorium on cities passing nondiscrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people. They also blamed the governor-elect, Attorney General Roy Cooper (D), who had paved the way for repeal by negotiating an agreement with the city of Charlotte to pull back a nondiscrimination ordinance it had enacted earlier this year.

“Make no mistake: Roy Cooper and Senate Democrats killed the repeal” of the bill, Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) said in a statement. “Their action proves they only wanted a repeal in order to force radical social engineering and shared bathrooms across North Carolina, at the expense of our state’s families, our reputation and our economy.”

The special session came amid intense acrimony in the North Carolina political scene, as Republican lawmakers recently passed legislation aimed at stripping power from the Democratic governor-elect, who in turn has threatened a lawsuit.

A proposal Berger had introduced Wednesday would have repealed the bathroom bill, also known as House Bill 2 or H.B. 2. But its imposition of a temporary ban on any local government effort to “enact or amend an ordinance” regulating access to restrooms angered groups that had long opposed H.B. 2, which, in addition to its bathroom provision, also reversed local ordinances expanding protections for LGBT people.

Gov. Pat McCrory (R), who this month conceded to Cooper, had called the special session on Monday, hours after Charlotte city officials said they would repeal the nondiscrimination ordinance the city passed in February. State lawmakers hastily introduced H.B. 2 in March, and McCrory quickly signed the bill, setting off a firestorm.

McCrory, a former Charlotte mayor, has long criticized the city’s measure as “government overreach” and said H.B. 2 was needed to combat that ordinance and protect women. Opponents of the bathroom bill, a group that includes the Justice Department, decried it as discriminatory, and big businesses and sports leagues echoed these concerns, halting planned expansions and relocating numerous games.

The half-measure proposed Wednesday did not satisfy these gay and transgender rights groups, who pledged to continue to fight a state law that they had criticized as one of the most discriminatory in the nation.

“It is unacceptable. It’s a gimmick. It’s H.B. 2.0,” said Mara Keisling, president of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “It’s not OK and any legislature that would do that wouldn’t really be doing that for only six months.”

The ugly battle in North Carolina could be a deterrent for other states to either pass broad anti-discrimination measures or enact laws regulating bathroom use by transgender people. Still, transgender rights groups expect a number of states to propose the latter next year. Among them is Texas, where Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R ) has said passing a “women’s privacy act” will be one of his top priorities next year.

Earlier Wednesday, the Charlotte City Council held an emergency meeting to repeal its own ordinance in full, a move meant to spur state lawmakers into action.

A spokeswoman for the city said the repeal vote Monday had affected only the part of the ordinance dealing with public accommodations, such as bathrooms, which council members thought would “sufficiently [fulfill] the requests of the general assembly” and lead to H.B. 2’s repeal.

Some state Republicans were critical of Charlotte for its partial repeal. Dallas Woodhouse, executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, posted a statement on Facebook saying that Cooper and the Charlotte City Council “lied to the public about a full repeal,” and his group went on to call this a “dishonest, disgraceful shame.”

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts (D) pushed back against the party’s statement, saying in an email to The Washington Post that the state GOP “is incorrect and they need to stop playing politics with people’s lives.”

The Charlotte City Council voted Wednesday morning to withdraw the remainder of the city’s ordinance “to ensure the repeal of [H.B. 2] would not be jeopardized in any way,” the city said in a statement.

The socially conservative North Carolina Family Policy Council had urged members Tuesday to call lawmakers to demand that they vote no on a repeal. Dan Forest, the state’s Republican lieutenant governor, said that even if the bill was repealed, “we will fight this battle all over again with another city or county.”

“The names will change, but the national groups who are pushing this agenda will not stop until their social engineering is accomplished,” Forest, a supporter of H.B. 2, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

On the other side, a newspaper in the liberal city of Asheville argued that the compromise was a losing proposition for gay and transgender people – as well as the state. “Even if everything goes as planned, the damage done to the state’s reputation is a bell that cannot be unrung,” the Asheville Citizen-Times editorial board wrote Tuesday. “Further, Charlotte’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents are back where they were a year ago, without the protections they deserve.”

Opponents of expanded transgender rights say that allowing explicit protections, particularly in the public sphere, not only breaks with long-standing social mores when it comes to gender and bathrooms but could open the door to sexual predators gaining access to women’s restrooms.

Rights groups, however, contend that such arguments are rooted in offensive stereotypes and do not reflect the reality of most transgender people, who have already been quietly using their preferred bathrooms without incident.

After the bathroom bill was signed, musicians including Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr canceled shows in North Carolina, while Cirque de Soleil scrapped several performances in the state.

The NBA, which has a franchise in Charlotte, moved this season’s All-Star Game from that city because of “the climate created by” H.B. 2. The NCAA took even more extensive action, relocating the seven championship games set to take place in North Carolina during this season, including two rounds of the lucrative men’s Division I basketball tournament.

Big businesses, including Google and Apple, spoke out against the law. PayPal, a California-based online payment firm, and Deutsche Bank, a German financial giant, called off planned expansions in North Carolina. These expansions would have brought a combined 650 jobs to North Carolina and been worth millions of dollars to the state, officials said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.