Thousands of people flocked to North Carolina’s capital on Monday to show both support and disdain for a law that has thrust the state into the international spotlight over its restrictions on transgender bathroom access and gay rights. Lawmakers returned to Raleigh to begin a short session designed to address the state budget. But controversy over the new law, which has drawn reaction from U.S. presidential candidates, U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron among others, is expected to dominate.

The measure puts the state at the center of a debate over equality, privacy and religious freedom as states propose legislation seen as discriminatory against gay and transgender people in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court last year ruling that legalized same-sex marriage. North Carolina became the first U.S. state to require transgender people to use restrooms in public buildings and schools that match the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. FULL REPORT