Metro Weekly

North Carolina sues Justice Department to defend anti-trans law

Lawsuit comes decision day for Tar Heel State to announce whether they'll continue to defend HB 2

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (Photo: NCDOTcommunications, via Wikimedia).

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (Photo: NCDOTcommunications, via Wikimedia).

North Carolina is suing the U.S. Department of Justice, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and one of her assistants.

It’s part of a pushback by state officials over what they’re calling an intrusion by the federal government into state affairs, CNN reports. At the center of the squabble is HB 2, the discriminatory law that eliminated all pro-LGBT ordinances in the state and requires transgender people only be allowed to use restrooms or changing facilities designated for their biological sex at birth.

The state’s decision comes after the Justice Department sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory (R) asking that North Carolina take steps to remedy HB 2, which the Justice Department says violates both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Under the Justice Department’s interpretation of those statutes, discrimination that singles out people based on their gender identity constitutes a form of sex discrimination.

In its letter, the Justice Department gave state officials until Monday to inform the department whether they will continue to enforce HB 2, or face consequences for failing to fix the law.

In its lawsuit, filed by McCrory and State Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry, North Carolina argues that the Justice Department’s position is a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act,” and argues that “transgender status is not a protected class under Title VII.” McCrory and state officials in North Carolina argue that the only way transgender people could be covered would be following action by Congress to amend Title VII to include LGBT people.

In an interview with FOX News on Sunday, McCrory attempted to rally support for his position, particularly among social conservatives, by accusing the Obama administration of trying to radically alter society and implying that other states could be targeted by the Justice Department for any laws it deems to be discriminatory.

“This is no longer just a North Carolina issue,” McCrory said. “This is a basic change of norms that we’ve used for decades throughout the United States of America and the Obama administration is now trying to change that norm — again not just in North Carolina, but they’re ordering this to every company in the United States of America — starting tomorrow I assume, or Tuesday.”

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal, who are challenging HB 2 in federal court on behalf of six LGBT North Carolinians, responded to the lawsuit, arguing that state officials only wish to perpetuate discrimination against transgender individuals.

“While transgender people in North Carolina remain in the perilous position of being forced to avoid public restrooms or risk violation of state law, Governor McCrory has doubled down on discrimination against them,” the groups said in a joint statement. “The federal government made clear that HB 2’s mandate of discrimination against transgender people violates federal civil rights laws but McCrory and other political leaders in the state have decided to risk federal funding to maintain that discrimination.

“Transgender people work for the state of North Carolina, attend school in North Carolina, and are a part of every community across the state. It is unconscionable that the government is placing a target on their backs to advance this discriminatory political agenda,” the statement says. “Lawsuits are normally filed to stop discrimination — not to continue it.”

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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