Metro Weekly

Federal judge hears arguments in lawsuit challenging HB 2

Judge Thomas Schroeder will determine whether to issue an order stopping North Carolina from enforcing the law

Plaintiffs Angela Gilmore and Joaquín Carcaño - Photo: Lambda Legal.
Plaintiffs Angela Gilmore and Joaquín Carcaño – Photo: Lambda Legal.

On Monday, a federal judge heard oral arguments on a motion seeking to stop North Carolina from enforcing its controversial HB 2 law. Appearing before U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder of the Middle District of North Carolina, Paul Smith, an attorney with legal firm Jenner & Block, which is representing the six plaintiffs challenging the law, argued that HB 2 is discriminatory and should be halted while it is being challenged in court.

“All I want is to use the appropriate restroom in peace, just like everyone else,” plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño, a 28-year-old UNC-Chapel Hill employee and transgender man, said in a statement. “It’s humiliating that this law separates me from my peers and treats me like a second-class citizen.”

As signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, HB 2 eliminates the ability of local jurisdictions to pass any ordinance prohibiting discrimination against LGBT people, and requires that transgender individuals be restricted to using only those bathrooms or changing facilities that correspond with their biological sex at birth as listed on their birth certificate.

Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, has recently come under fire for a decision upholding North Carolina’s voter ID law, which was subsequently overturned by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. He has a reputation as a conservative judge, but not as staunchly conservative as some of his peers, according to legal experts who spoke to The Charlotte Observer. Most North Carolina legal experts believe he will likely rule in favor of HB 2, although his ties to the business community from his time as a corporate lawyer could be a wild card. Schroeder is expected to rule on whether to issue a preliminary injunction that would stop North Carolina from enforcing HB 2’s provisions in the coming weeks.

Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the ACLU of North Carolina, which are also part of the team representing the six plaintiffs, issued a joint statement expressing their hope that Schroeder would issue the preliminary injunction. They argue that the law violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as Title IX’s prohibitions on sex discrimination. The U.S. Department of Justice is also challenging the law and seeking a preliminary injunction to halt its enforcement, although the department is challenging it from another angle: that HB 2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender people in North Carolina remain in the perilous position of being forced to avoid public restrooms or risk violation of state law,” ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said in the joint statement. “This cruel, insulting, and unconstitutional law targets transgender people in North Carolina and causes irreparable harm. It must be put on hold while it is reviewed by the court.”

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