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Feds move to block North Carolina from enforcing ‘Bathroom Bill’

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to block North Carolina from enforcing parts of H.B.2.
Photo credit:
Sara D. Davis/Getty Images via Huffington Post

The U.S. Department of Justice has asked a federal judge to block North Carolina from enforcing parts of H.B.2, the controversial law requiring people to use public bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

“H.B. 2 denies transgender people access to sex-segregated bathrooms and changing rooms consistent with their gender identity unless they can produce an amended birth certificate,” wrote lawyers for the department in the motion, filed late Tuesday, which contends that enforcement of the law violates federal civil rights statutes.

The voluminous filing ― which was accompanied by dozens of exhibits and declarations from experts and trans people affected by the law ―  is the latest in the federal government’s legal pushback against North Carolina, which began with a stern letter from DOJ to Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in May.

H.B. 2 has also sparked a number of competing lawsuits, all of which will probably take years to resolve. 

DOJ, in its Tuesday filing, asserted that the interests North Carolina and its agencies have pushed in following through with the so-called bathroom bill ― including concerns for privacy and protection against sexual predators ― “are factually baseless and legally insufficient to justify this discrimination.” 

“As the record shows, transgender people in North Carolina have long used bathrooms consistent with their gender identity in private facilities and, before H.B. 2, in public facilities, without precipitating criminal conduct or widespread complaints about the invasion of privacy,” the lawyers wrote.

”H.B. 2 is not merely a solution to a non-existent problem; it is state-sanctioned discrimination that is inflicting immediate and significant harm on transgender individuals,” they added.

The battle over H.B. 2 is seen as the latest frontier in the ongoing struggle over strengthening rights and protections for LGBT people, which scored its biggest win yet last year when the Supreme Court recognized that gay couples have a constitutional right to marry.

But certain states and supporters of the bathroom bill also regard the fight as the Obama administration’s newest push for federal agencies ― such as the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ― to adopt an aggressive reading of anti-discrimination laws, which forbid discrimination on the basis of sex but don’t squarely address transgender discrimination.

To that end, DOJ pointed in its Tuesday filing to a watershed ruling that agreed with the federal government’s reading of the “sex” provision of Title IX, one of the laws at issue in the litigation, as encompassing discrimination against trans individuals. That ruling came from the federal appeals court that covers North Carolina.

The department said that the “controlling logic of that decision” and other rulings on the proper meaning of sex discrimination mean the federal government will likely win its challenge against H.B. 2.

Whether the federal judge in this particular case agrees will be known soon. In the meantime, the same issues are coming to a head elsewhere in the country.

On Wednesday, Texas and 12 other states filed their own motion ― in another federal court ― asking a judge to block the federal government from using civil rights laws to protect trans individuals.