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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 13, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 20
Dueling lawsuits over North Carolina discrimination law:
State sues DOJ, DOJ sues back
Section One
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Dueling lawsuits over North Carolina discrimination law:
State sues DOJ, DOJ sues back

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil rights suit against the state of North Carolina and its Governor, Pat McCrory, only hours after the Governor filed suit against federal authorities.

The dueling lawsuits came as a DOJ deadline arrived for North Carolina to back down from its controversial HB 2, a law that would shred state protections for its LGBT residents.

According to a DOJ letter sent to McCrory on May 4, many provisions of HB 2 violate federal civil rights laws. The department gave North Carolina till May 9 to confirm it would not attempt to enforce the law.

Among the objectionable provisions was one barring Transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

That amounts to 'state-sponsored discrimination' against Trans people, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a May 9 press conference announcing the DOJ suit. HB 2 only serves to 'harm innocent Americans,' she added.

The DOJ lawsuit charges that the law has caused Transgender people to suffer 'emotional harm, mental anguish, distress, humiliation, and indignity.' The suit seeks a federal court order preventing the law's enforcement.

Only hours before, McCrory filed his own lawsuit against the federal government, seeking a court order to keep his state's law in place.

'Our nation is dealing with a very new, complex and emotional issue,' McCrory said after announcing his lawsuit 'I think it's time for the US Congress to bring clarity to the national anti-discrimination policies under Title VII and Title IX.'

Title VII and Title IX are federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis several characteristics, including sex. The Obama administration has interpreted that ban as including gender identity, and therefore protecting Transgender Americans.

In his suit, McCrory alleged that DOJ had made a 'radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which would prevent plaintiffs from protecting the bodily privacy rights of state employees while accommodating the needs of transgendered state employees.'

'The Department's position is a baseless and blatant overreach,' the North Carolina suit continued.

'Enough is enough,' AG says
McCrory does not have the backing of his state's Attorney General, Roy Cooper, who previously opposed HB 2 and said he would not defend it if it were challenged in court.

In a May 9 statement, Cooper said the Governor was 'pouring gas on the fire that he lit and putting billions in education funding on the line. Instead of doing what's right for our state, he's doubling down on what he knows he did wrong. Enough is enough.'

According to the prestigious Williams Institute at UCLA Law School, North Carolina stands to lose up to $4.8 billion in federal funding if it implements HB 2 because Title VII and Title IX make certain kinds of federal grants contingent on barring discrimination.

Besides being North Carolina's Attorney General, Cooper is also McCrory's opponent in the state's gubernatorial race. Cooper is currently leading by up to 10 points in polls.

ACLU/Lambda Legal suit
The ACLU, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal have already challenged HB 2 in court, acting on behalf of six LGBT residents of North Carolina. They issued a statement on May 9, hailing the DOJ lawsuit.

'We applaud the Justice Department for filing suit and joining us in saying that neither Governor McCrory nor North Carolina's legislators can strip equality out of federal law,' their statement said.

'This law is a targeted and unprecedented attack on the LGBT community, particularly against transgender people.

'The Justice Department has reaffirmed its letter to Governor McCrory and what we put forth in our complaint when we filed our lawsuit in March. 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...

'Gov. McCrory is now defying the federal government. He is on the wrong side of history. There are only two ways to reverse this terrible damage: The state should repeal this discriminatory law, or the courts should strike it down.'

One of the plaintiffs in the ACLU/Lambda Legal case, Joaquín Carcaño, has also filed a complaint with the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission), the agency charged with enforcing federal employment laws, charging North Carolina with violations of Title VII.

HRC and Equality NC weigh in
HRC and Equality NC also weighed in on May 9 with statements denouncing McCrory's suit.

'North Carolina's HB2 law is blatantly unconstitutional and violates federal civil rights law,' said HRC President Chad Griffin.

'The Department of Justice has already been clear that it violates the civil rights of North Carolinians. The idea Governor McCrory is going to waste even more time and millions more taxpayer dollars defending it is reckless and wrong. HB2 is a vile law attacking transgender North Carolinians and leaves many more unprotected from discrimination. Rather than defending it, Governor McCrory should be working with state lawmakers to fix the mess he's created.'

'The lawsuit that was filed [by McCrory] today is just another tactic to delay a decision and is a continued waste of taxpayer dollars when it is already very clear that the only option is a full repeal of HB2,' said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro.

'The Fourth Circuit Court has already provided guidance on this and continued litigation by the state is simply wasteful. The state house and senate must fully repeal HB2 with Governor McCrory's leadership.'

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals - which has jurisdiction over North Carolina - ruled on April 19 that barring Transgender students from gender-appropriate school restrooms violates Title VII and Title IX.

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