Metro Weekly

Federal judge blocks UNC from enforcing anti-trans law HB 2

Order to remain in effect while 3 transgender University of North Carolina students challenge state's HB 2 law in court

Louis Round Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Photo: Ildar Sagdejev, via Wikimedia).

Louis Round Wilson Library at UNC Chapel Hill – Photo: Ildar Sagdejev, via Wikimedia

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder has issued a preliminary injunction blocking the University of North Carolina from enforcing HB 2, the state law banning transgender people from restrooms that match their gender identity. The federal judge found that three transgender individuals challenging HB 2 are likely to succeed in convincing the court that the law violates Title IX’s prohibitions on sex discrimination in education.

In writing his decision, Schroeder relied heavily on a ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the case of G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, in which the 4th Circuit found that Virginia transgender high school student Gavin Grimm would be likely to succeed in his claim that his local school board’s policy on transgender students is discriminatory.

“The fate of G.G. is uncertain,” he said, referring to the Grimm case. “But, despite the stay and recall of the mandate, the Supreme Court did not vacate or reverse the Fourth Circuit’s decision. Thus, while other courts may reach contrary decisions, at present G.G. remains the law in this circuit.”

Schroeder also pushed back against a recent district court ruling out of Texas that blocked the Obama administration from requiring schools to treat transgender students according to their gender identity, noting that, for now, the 4th Circuit’s decision sets a legal precedent. 

Several groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal, celebrated Friday’s ruling.
 
“We are thrilled that the court put a temporary stop to some of the grave harm HB 2 imposes on our transgender clients,” Tara Borelli, a senior attorney with Lambda Legal, said in a statement. “This ruling is an important first step to make sure that thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home — particularly transgender people — get the privacy, respect and protections afforded others in the state.”
 
The challenge to the law will be heard in full by Schroeder on Nov. 14. During the trial, the court will hear other arguments against the law, including evidence that it violates Title IX, is unconstitutional under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and violates the privacy and medical decision-making of transgender people. The court will also hear challenges to the non-bathroom-related provisions of HB 2, such as the part of the law that prohibits local municipalities from passing LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.
 
“Today is a great day for me and hopefully this is the start to chipping away at the injustice of HB 2 that is harming thousands of other transgender people who call North Carolina home, plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño said in a statement. “Today, the tightness that I have felt in my chest every day since HB 2 passed has eased. But the fight is not over: we won’t rest until this discriminatory law is defeated.”
 
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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