Justice Department Challenges N.C. Transgender Law

    In 2016, the North Carolina Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, commonly referred to as House Bill 2, was challenged in court by the U.S. Justice Department.

    Among other things, House Bill 2 eliminated anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and stated that in government buildings, individuals could only use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
    After the Justice Department notified North Carolina’s governor and leaders of the University of North Carolina (UNC) system that the law violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act, suit was filed on May 9, 2016.

    According to the Justice Department website, www.justice.gov, the complaint alleged that the defendants, as a result of the bathroom and changing facility provisions of House Bill 2, discriminated against transgender public employees and applicants in violation of Title VII. Title VII makes sex discrimination in employment unlawful. The Justice Department claimed that access to restrooms was a basic condition of employment and that denying transgender access to restrooms and changing facilities constituted unlawful sex discrimination.

    The complaint also alleged that, under House Bill 2, the defendants were violating the non-discrimination provision of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The Justice Department asserted that these laws applied to recipients of federal funding.

    The complaint sought a federal court order prohibiting the defendants from enforcing the ban under House Bill 2.
    That same day, North Carolina’s governor and secretary of public safety sued the Justice Department in a different federal court.

    According to the New York Times, that decision was narrow in scope, The judge’s decision applied only to the parties who brought the challenge and found that they had shown that they were likely to succeed in proving that the House Bill 2 access restriction violated Title IX.
    “In sum, the court has no reason to believe that an injunction returning to the state of affairs as it existed before March 2016 would pose a privacy or safety risk for North Carolinians, transgender or otherwise,” the opinion stated. “It is in the public interest to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws in a fashion that also maintains longstanding state laws designed to promote privacy and safety.”