May 9, 2016 at 10:33 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
N.C. sues federal government over HB 2 challenge

North Carolina, gay news, Washington Blade

North Carolina on May 9, 2016, filed a lawsuit against the federal government over its challenge of an anti-LGBT law. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department over its challenge of a controversial anti-LGBT law.

McCrory in March signed House Bill 2, which bans transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prevents North Carolina municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances.

The Justice Department last week told North Carolina that HB 2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also notified the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina that their compliance with the law violates Title VII, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Act.

Then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in 2014 said Title VII — which specifically addresses workplace discrimination — protects trans people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled last summer that discrimination based upon sexual orientation amounts to sex discrimination under the statute.

Title IX bans schools receiving federal funds from discriminating on the basis of sex.

The Justice Department has said Title IX requires school districts to allow trans students to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. North Carolina universities that comply with HB 2 could lose more than $4 billion a year in federal funds.

“This was a substantial request with very serious implications,” McCrory told reporters during a Raleigh press conference after his administration filed the lawsuit. “The U.S. government gave us a mere three business days to respond to this letter.”

McCrory said his administration on May 6 asked the Justice Department for an additional two weeks to respond to its letter. He told reporters it refused the request “unless I made a statement where i would publicly agree with their interpretation of federal law.”

“I could not agree to that because I do not agree with their interpretation of federal law,” said McCrory. “That is why this morning I have asked a federal court to clarify what the law actually is.”

HB 2 has sparked widespread outrage among LGBT rights advocates and their supporters.

PayPal cancelled plans to expand its operations in North Carolina in response to McCrory’s decision to sign the law. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last month said it could consider moving its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte if HB 2 stands.

“The lawsuit that was filed 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 HB 2,” said Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, in a statement.

Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union also criticized McCrory’s lawsuit.

“Transgender people work for the state of North Carolina, attend school in North Carolina, and are a part of every community across the state,” said the organizations in a statement. “It is unconscionable that the government is placing a target on their backs to advance this discriminatory political agenda. Lawsuits are normally filed to stop discrimination—not to continue it.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest on Monday spoke about the lawsuit during his daily briefing.

“What the North Carolina has done is inconsistent with the interests of North Carolina and of the economy,” said Earnest.

McCrory ‘wasting North Carolina taxpayer dollars’

The ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal in late March filed a federal lawsuit against HB 2 on behalf of six LGBT North Carolinians.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on April 19 ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a trans student who challenged his Virginia school district over its policy that bars him from using the boys restroom or locker room.

North Carolina is among the states that fall under the 4th Circuit’s jurisdiction.

U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle has been assigned to McCrory’s lawsuit. The Reagan appointee ruled in 2015 that a trans person who alleges discrimination because of their gender identity can claim sex discrimination under Title VII.

“The governor is wasting North Carolina taxpayer dollars on a shoddy legal strategy that seems unlikely to succeed,” Freedom to Work President Tico Almeida told the Blade on Monday.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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