North Carolina Asks Courts To Intervene In Conflict With DOJ Over LGBT Law
(Photo: Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/TNS via Getty Images)
The governor of North Carolina has asked federal courts to clarify U.S. law on transgender access to bathrooms.
The legal filing comes ahead of an end-of-Monday deadline for North Carolina to respond to the Department of Justice over a controversial law barring protections for LGBT people in the state.
"The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina. This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said in a statement about the filing.
The DOJ, which says the law violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX, had set that deadline for the state to reply and say whether they intended to enact the law. The governor instead responded with a legal filing asking courts to clarify the federal law.
Billions of dollars of federal funding may be at stake.
The law in question, known as HB2 (House Bill 2), requires transgender people at state facilities, including schools, to use the restroom that corresponds to the sex on their birth certificate — not their identified gender. (The law also blocks local jurisdictions from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances, among other things.)
As the Two-Way reported last week, the state House speaker had said lawmakers won't meet the DOJ's deadline. House Speaker Tim Moore called the deadline "unreasonable" and said it "will come and go."
"We're going to move at the speed we're going to move at," Moore said, member station WUNC reports.
A Swiftly-Passed State Law
The law, which was passed over the course of 12 hours in a special one-day session of the state legislature, was issued in response to a ordinance by the city of Charlotte that would have established protections for LGBT people. That ordinance would have allowed trans people in Charlotte to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.
The state bill nullified that Charlotte ordinance, and required all state facilities to go further and explicitly require that bathrooms be segregated according to sex as assigned at birth.
"It's either a common-sense measure, or rooted in ignorance, depending on whom you ask," Jeff Tiberii of WUNC reported for NPR's Morning Edition.
The law has mobilized voters on both sides, Tiberii says — the conservative base as well as the law's opponents.
"At least two corporations have decided not to expand here, well-known performers have canceled gigs, and even some elected officials have said this has damaged the state's economy and reputation," Tiberii says.
"And there's no consensus on which party this benefits the most."
The Rebuke From DOJ
The Department of Justice says that violates the Civil Rights Act, by discriminating against state employees, and Title IX, by discriminating against students at state schools.
In a letter to McCrory, the DOJ said that "the State is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees."
The department gave the governor until close of business Monday to reply and say whether it will implement the law, or remedy the violations.
One of the sponsors of the law, North Carolina state Rep. Paul Stam, told NPR's Morning Edition earlier today that he expected McCrory to fight the Department of Justice on the issue.
"That's what I would hope and expect him to do," Stam said.
Stam also said he wasn't worried about the possibility that North Carolina might lose federal funding over the law, saying it could take years for that process to happen.
"The idea that this is some imminent threat is an empty one," he said.
Stam told NPR the fact that the DOJ is citing the Civil Rights Act — which applies to companies with more than 15 employees — means "this is no longer a threat against North Carolina."
"Every business in the nation that employs more than 15 people is under threat ... that the federal government will sue them" if they don't permit trans employees to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity, Stam says.