Justice Department now suing NC over transgender bathroom law

Photo of the symbols on the door of a transgender accessible bathroom.
Photo of the symbols on the door of a transgender accessible bathroom.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina and the federal government exchanged lawsuits Monday as the battle over House Bill 2 took on a national scope.

CBS News reported Monday afternoon that the Justice Department will sue North Carolina.

The lawsuit says North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Law by denying transgender people access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who is from Durham, was holding a news conference Monday afternoon.

Earlier Monday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration sued the federal government  in a fight for a state law that requires transgender people to use the public restroom matching the sex on their birth certificate.

The lawsuit seeks to keep in place the law, which the U.S. Justice Department said last week violated the civil rights of transgender people against sex discrimination on the job and in education.

“I do not agree with their interpretation of federal law. That is why this morning I have asked a federal court to clarify what the law actually is,” McCrory said at a news conference. He said he hopes other states will join North Carolina in court as it fights the Justice Department’s position that the Civil Rights Act requires that transgender people be allowed to access facilities matching their gender identities.

“This is not a North Carolina issue. It is now a national issue,” McCrory said.

The AP reported Monday afternoon that the Justice Department will sue North Carolina.

The lawsuit says North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Law by denying transgender people access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

On Monday afternoon, General Assembly leaders Phil Berger of the Senate and Tim Moore of the House said they have filed a lawsuit in the Eastern District of North Carolina, asking the court o uphold House Bill 2.

“It’s unacceptable for the Obama administration to try to intimidate North Carolina taxpayers into accepting their radical reinterpretation of a law meant to protect women from discrimination into a law that would actually deny women their right to basic safety and privacy,” they said in a statement. “What the Obama administration is arguing has never been written into law by Congress or settled in the courts, and that is why we are seeking clarity – to confirm we remain in compliance with federal law.”

Moore, the speaker of the House, had said last week he did not expect the state to respond by Monday’s federal deadline.

The Justice Department had set a Monday deadline for McCrory to report whether he would refuse to enforce the law that took effect in March. McCrory’s defiance could risk funding for the state’s university system and lead to a protracted legal battle. The law also limits state anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and blocks local governments from establishing their own.

The law, called House Bill 2, has been criticized by gay rights groups, and entertainers including Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have canceled shows. PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte, and Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans near Raleigh. Nearly 200 corporate leaders from across the country, including Charlotte-based Bank of America, have urged the law’s repeal, arguing it’s bad for business because it makes recruiting talented employees more difficult.

Several other states have proposed similar laws in recent months limiting protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sued that state over a law that will allow workers to cite their own religious objections to same-sex marriage to deny services to people.

Federal civil rights enforcement attorneys focused in their warning letters to North Carolina particularly on the bathroom provision. The letters threatening possible federal lawsuits were sent to McCrory, leaders of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system, and the state’s public safety agency.

McCrory’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in North Carolina, asks a judge to block Justice Department action that could threaten billions of dollars in federal money flowing to the state.
The lawsuit called the law a “common sense privacy policy” and said the Justice Department’s position was a “baseless and blatant overreach.”

“This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the courts,” the lawsuit said.

McCrory said on “Fox News Sunday” he was not aware of any North Carolina cases of transgender people using their gender identity to access a restroom and molest someone. Other supporters of the law cite reports elsewhere of men entering women’s bathrooms — thanks to policies allowing transgender people to enter the restrooms aligned with their gender identity — to highlight the threat of sexual assault.

The state’s public university system was expected to issue a separate response Monday to the Justice Department warning letter it received. The university’s governing board scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday to receive a private “legal briefing” from its top staff attorney.

The UNC system risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds if its observance of the law is found to violate federal sex discrimination protections in education and employment. Another $800 million in federally backed loans for students who attend the public universities also would be at risk.

The lawyers filing Monday’s lawsuit on behalf of McCrory and the public safety agency head appointed by the governor include McCrory’s top legal aide and Columbia, South Carolina-based lawyer Karl S. “Butch” Bowers Jr.

Bowers previously represented McCrory in a federal lawsuit alleging new Republican-backed voting law changes were intended to suppress minority voter turnout. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper declined to defend that law in court and also has refused to defend the LGBT law. Cooper, a Democrat, is challenging the Republican McCrory’s re-election bid in November.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s