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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 5, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 40
North Carolina law does not ban Trans people from restrooms, federal judge says - Lawsuit against state preemption may go forward
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North Carolina law does not ban Trans people from restrooms, federal judge says - Lawsuit against state preemption may go forward

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A federal judge has ruled that North Carolina state law does not forbid Transgender residents from using restrooms and other public accommodations. The judge also cleared the way for a lawsuit aimed at striking down provisions barring municipalities in the state from passing nondiscrimination ordinances that cover public accommodations or private business practices.

The ruling affects HB142, the measure passed by the North Carolina legislature last year as a substitute for the infamous HB2, which barred Trans people from using restrooms that are appropriate for their gender identity.

HB2 had required Trans people in government buildings and schools to use restrooms, locker rooms, and showers that correspond to the genders listed on their birth certificates. The measure, passed in 2016, and was immediately met with a backlash.

The passage of HB2 provoked a nationwide series of boycotts, including conventions, sporting events, and concerts, and many prominent companies scuttled plans for expansions in or relocations to North Carolina.

Several states and municipalities even instituted bans on official travel to North Carolina - including Seattle and Washington state - and some of them remain in effect to this day.

North Carolina became a pariah, and the backlash against the state's Republican governor, Pat McCrory, resulted in his defeat by a Democrat in the next election.

Following McCrory's loss, Republican legislative leaders and newly elected Gov. Roy Cooper tried to reach a compromise to repeal the worst parts of HB2 and send a message to companies that North Carolina would be a business-friendly environment.

Almost exactly one year after it passed, HB2 was replaced by HB142, which repealed the most draconian provisions relating to bathroom use but included a ban on North Carolina cities and counties passing ordinances that explicitly allowed more rights to Trans people than state law did.

In his September 30 ruling, US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder found that although state law forbade municipalities from explicitly protecting Trans people, it did not explicitly prevent them from using gender-appropriate facilities.

Schroeder also allowed a legal challenge to the part of HB142 that preempts municipal nondiscrimination ordinances. That part is likely to be found unconstitutional, he said, because it prevents people from seeking relief from discrimination through local governments.

'While HB142 does not prohibit plaintiffs' efforts at advocacy, it plainly makes them meaningless by prohibiting even the prospect of relief at the local level,' Schroeder wrote in his opinion.

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