N.C. and Justice Dept. Trade Lawsuits Over Bathroom Privacy Law

Gov. Pat McCrory accuses the Obama Administration of ignoring Congress and "attempting to rewrite the law."

By Al Perrotta Published on May 10, 2016

The Justice Department is suing North Carolina over its bathroom privacy law, accusing the state of a “pattern or practice of employment discrimination on the basis of sex.” Attorney General Lynch called the law “state-sponsored discrimination” against transgendered people.

North Carolina’s bathroom privacy law affirms the longstanding norms in North Carolina and other states, namely that people must use the bathroom of their biological sex as indicated on their birth certificate, rather than their self-declared gender identity.

However, in its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, the Justice Department claimed that “gender identity is innate and external efforts to change a person’s gender identity can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.”

The legal action came only hours after North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory himself sued the federal government in an effort to protect the law from the DOJ’s threat to cut billions in federal funding.

North Carolina’s lawsuit calls the law, commonly known as HB2, a “common sense privacy policy” and declares the Justice Department’s threats a “baseless and blatant overreach.”

“This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the courts,” the lawsuit states.

The law was enacted after the city of Charlotte passed an ordinance which, in part, would have allowed a man to use the women’s restrooms if he says he feels like a woman, and vice versa. (The city’s ordinance language frames the matter as protecting “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression.”)

Supporters of the North Carolina bathroom law argue that it’s designed to protect the privacy of people who use public restrooms and locker rooms, who have an expectation that a given facility will be used by those of the same gender. It also protects those whose religious beliefs require separate facilities. Others argue that such measures as the Charlotte ordinance are a gift to predators who could take advantage of the ordinance to prey on the public.

The Justice Department and its LGBT allies argue that the North Carolina law violates the civil rights of the transgendered. Last week, Justice gave Gov. McCrory until today to report on whether he would enforce the law which went into place March 24. The Justice Department said that if he does enforce it, the state would face the loss of Federal funding.

North Carolina’s public university system alone risks losing $1.4 billion if found to violate federal sex discrimination protections in education and employment. The UNC system is expected to issue its own response to the Justice Department’s letter later Monday. According to the Associated Press, another $800 million in federally backed loans would also be at risk.

Gov. McCrory said he asked Justice for an extension but was given only until close of business today. “I don’t think that three working days is enough time for such a pretty big threat,” he told Fox News Sunday. “It’s the federal government being a bully, making law.”

As McCrory noted the Tar Heel State isn’t the only one in the Justice Department’s cross-hairs. “This is not just North Carolina,” said McCrory. “They’re now telling every university that accepts federal funding that boys who think they’re a girl can go into a girl’s locker room or restroom or shower facility.”

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