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Court ruling deals blow to North Carolina anti-LGBT law



Pat McCrory, Republican Party, South Carolina, same-sex marriage, gay marriage, marriage equality, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.) has said he would comply with a court ruling in favor of Virginia transgender student. (Photo by Hal Goodtree; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

A federal appeals court ruling in favor of a Virginia transgender student seeking to use school restrooms consistent with his gender identity constitutes a blow to North Carolina’s recently enacted anti-LGBT law, legal experts say.

Although the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision pertains to a school district in Virginia, the case has bearing on House Bill 2 because the court also has jurisdiction over North Carolina along with Maryland, South Carolina and West Virginia. Legal experts say the decision has the effect of rendering unenforceable the component of HB 2 that prohibits transgender students from using school restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Upon news of the decision, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told reporters he would “make sure these court rulings are abided to,” but would need to consult with lawyers to verify the necessary approach.

“We’ve got to evaluate the impact of this court ruling on existing legislation, on existing policy that we have throughout North Carolina, and I will do just that,” McCrory said.

McCrory added he expects more action in the form of a petition for review to the U.S. Supreme Court, but meanwhile he needs to ascertain whether the ruling requires schools to allow transgender students to use public restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, which would be contrary to House Bill 2.

“This is a major, major change in social norms not only to North Carolina, but also to the 27 other states that don’t allow this at this point in time,” McCrory said.

Signed into law last month by McCrory after an emergency session of the state legislature, HB 2 undoes all pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances in North Carolina, including one recently enacted in Charlotte, and prohibits transgender people from using public restrooms in schools and government buildings consistent with their gender identity.

But at the same time this law was passed, Gavin Grimm, a transgender student at Virginia’s Gloucester County High School, was appealing before the Fourth Circuit a lower court decision affirming the right of his school district’s policy barring him from using the boys restroom or locker room.

One friend-of-the-court brief was filed by the U.S. Justice Department, which argued the policy was in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Another was filed by state leaders, including McCrory, and argued the court should rule in favor of the school district. Ultimately, the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Grimm and remanded the case to the trial court, establishing precedent in favor of transgender students.

Douglas NeJaime, faculty director of the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, was among those saying the court decision makes unenforceable the component of HB 2 restricting bathroom use for transgender people in schools.

“The part of North Carolina’s bill that is specifically about bathrooms, or public accommodations, to the extent that they would apply to schools, which are subject to Title IX, then I think it’s suggesting in the North Carolina bill are unenforceable,” NeJaime said. “This would obviously apply to North Carolina because its in the Fourth Circuit, and the federal regulations would govern over any contrary state regulations.”

The next step in the process, NeJaime said, is for state attorneys and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has refused to defend HB 2 in court, to declare that portion of the law unenforceable. If that doesn’t happen, or if Cooper and McCrory’s attorneys disagree, NeJaime said a federal court in North Carolina would make that declaration and clarify the language cannot be enforced.

“I would guess that the ACLU and Lambda attorneys would probably quite quickly file papers and ask for an injunction just on that issue fairly quickly, but then, of course, it would be up to how quickly things can be scheduled,” NeJaime said. “I would imagine that that would move forward on an accelerated schedule.”

Neither McCrory’s office nor Cooper’s responded to the Washington Blade’s request to comment late Tuesday on their determination for what the Fourth Circuit ruling means for HB 2.

Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the Fourth Circuit ruling immediately requires North Carolina to allow transgender students to use public restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

“This ruling not only gives appropriate deference to the Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX as allowing transgender students to use school restrooms consistent with their gender identity, it also is binding on the state of North Carolina,” Warbelow said. “We therefore expect public schools, including those in North Carolina, to immediately comply, ensuring transgender students full protections under the law, which includes full access to the appropriate facilities.”

Legal groups — Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina — filed a lawsuit against HB 2 last month on the basis the law violates the equal protection and due process clauses under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

In a joint statement, the groups said the ruling has major implications on HB 2, but were more focused on the decision serving as an impetus for full repeal of the law.

“Today’s ruling makes plain that North Carolina’s House Bill 2 violates Title IX by discriminating against transgender students and forcing them to use the wrong restroom at school,” the statement says. “This mean-spirited law not only encourages discrimination and endangers transgender students – it puts at risk billions of dollars in federal funds that North Carolina receives for secondary and post-secondary schools. House Bill 2 exposes North Carolinians to discrimination and harm, is wreaking havoc on the state’s economy and reputation, and now more than ever, places the state’s federal education funding in jeopardy. We again call on Gov. McCrory and the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 2 and replace it with full nondiscrimination protections for LGBT people.”

Despite the different focuses of the statements, Warbelow told the Washington Blade the Human Rights Campaign and legal groups behind the lawsuit are on the same page.

“There’s no daylight between us,” Warbelow said. “North Carolina schools should follow Title IX immediately as underscored by Fourth Circuit decision. There still needs to be a full repeal of HB 2 to address its broad array of harms.”

But the ruling doesn’t have any impact on the portions of HB 2 prohibiting municipalities from enacting pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, nor does it hold sway over the part that bars transgender people from using public restrooms in government buildings consistent with their gender identity.

NeJaime pointed out the Fourth Circuit ruling is based only on Title IX, which affects only students, and makes no headway into the whether equal protection and due process under the U.S. Constitution comes into play for any issue in HB 2.

“The only issue this ruling is tackling is access that trans people have to restrooms, and so the pre-emption of local non-discrimination ordinances isn’t at all impacted by this,” NeJaime added.

The district court reviewing the litigation challenging HB 2, NeJaime said, could elect to issue a more immediate ruling on use public restrooms for transgender students, but hold off until later to make a decision on other components of the law.

Although McCrory said the Gloucester County High School may seek to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for review, which could impact the result of the ruling on North Carolina, NeJaime said justices are unlikely to take action as a result of only one circuit court decision and no split among the others.

“Certainly, we saw in the marriage cases, there were cert petitions filed after preliminary injunction motions. We also saw that DOMA in litigation,” NeJaime said. “In all those cases, the court waited until there was more resolution.”

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  1. lnm3921

    April 19, 2016 at 10:16 pm

    Knowing that this litigation was before the 4th circuit court, why couldn’t activist wait until a decision was made instead of pushing for the bathroom legislation in NC and other red states first?

    While this may invalidate the bathroom restrictions, it won’t do anything about the NC legislation that bars ordinances that bar employment, housing and other types of discrimination from being enacted. The boycotts to the state haven’t moved them to act immediately to undo the law let alone push for legislation on a state level that would bar discrimination and negate the need for ordinances.

    This may help with the part of Mississippi law that bars bathrooms use but does nothing about the other parts of the discriminatory law. It seems like a pyrrhic victory.

  2. Foodahz

    April 20, 2016 at 3:16 am

    “But the ruling doesn’t have any impact on the portions of HB 2 prohibiting municipalities from enacting pro-LGBT non-discrimination ordinances, nor does it hold sway over the part that bars transgender people from using public restrooms in government buildings consistent with their gender identity.”

    That’s the most important part and it’s buried near the end of the article. This isn’t over, people.

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Activists demand ICE release transgender, HIV-positive detainees

Protest took place outside agency’s D.C. headquarters on Wednesday



Jessycka Ckatallea Letona, an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who spent nearly two years in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, participated in a protest in front of ICE's headquarters in Southwest D.C. on Oct. 27, 2021. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Jessycka Ckatallea Letona is an indigenous transgender woman from Guatemala who fled persecution in her homeland because of her gender identity.

She asked for asylum in the U.S. in 2016 when she entered the country in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Ckatallea on Wednesday told the Washington Blade that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials placed her in a pod with 70 men at a privately-run detention center in Florence, Ariz. She also said personnel at another ICE detention center in Santa Ana, Calif., ridiculed her because of her gender identity and forced her to strip naked before she attended hearings in her asylum case.

Ckatallea spent a year and eight months in ICE custody before her release. She won her asylum case and now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” said Ckatallea as she spoke with the Blade in front of ICE’s headquarters in Southwest D.C. “I came to a country thinking that it would take care of me, that it would protect me because of my gender identity.”

Ckatallea is one of the more than a dozen immigrant rights activists who participated in a protest in front of ICE’s headquarters that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention campaign organized. Ckatallea, Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris and other protest participants demanded ICE immediately release trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from their custody.

The groups placed on the sidewalk in front of the building a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” to honor three trans women—Victoria Orellano, Roxsana Hernández and Johana “Joa” Medina León—who died in ICE custody or immediately after their release. The “ofrenda” also paid tribute to Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS who died in ICE custody on Oct. 1.

Immigrant rights activists on Oct. 27, 2021, placed a Day of the Dead “ofrenda” outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters in Southwest D.C. that honored three transgender women and a man with AIDS who died while in ICE custody or immediately upon their release. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Ckatallea, Morris and the other protesters approached the building’s entrance and presented security personnel with a petition that calls upon President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to “immediately release all transgender people, people living with HIV, and people with medical conditions from ICE custody.”

ICE has repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in their custody.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center, the same privately-run facility in which Gotopo was held until his hospitalization. The person with whom the Blade spoke described conditions inside the detention center as “not safe” because personnel were not doing enough to protect them and other detainees from COVID-19.

Congressman Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) is among the dozens of lawmakers who have called for the release of all trans people and people with HIV/AIDS from ICE custody. The Illinois Democrat on Tuesday reiterated this call during a virtual briefing that Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Immigration Equality and the End Trans Detention Campaign organized.

“ICE’s clear inability to do better leads me to seek to end of ICE’s detention of all trans migrants,” said Quigley. “During both the Trump and Biden administration I led dozens of my colleagues to demand that ICE release transgender detainees and end its practice of holding trans migrants in custody. We had hoped that things would change with the new administration, so far I’m disappointed.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also participated in the briefing alongside Immigration Equality Legal Director Bridget Crawford and Sharita Gruberg of the Center for American Progress and others.

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Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott signs anti-Trans youth sports bill

“Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids & adults- the emails to the Governor to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law”



Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott (Blade file screenshot)

AUSTIN – Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law Monday H.B. 25, an anti-Transgender youth sports bill banning Trans K-12 student-athletes from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity. 

H.B. 25 is the 9th statewide bill signed into law this year banning transgender youth from participating in school sports and the 10th in the country. This bill also comes during a year when Texas lawmakers have proposed nearly 70 anti-LGBTQ bills, including more than 40 bills that specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth — far more than any other state.

“We are devastated at the passage of this bill. Despite the powerful testimony of trans kids and adults, families and advocates, and the many emails and calls our community placed to the Governor’s office to veto this harmful piece of legislation it is now law,” Ricardo Martinez, CEO of Equality Texas, said.

“Most immediately, our focus is our community and integrating concepts of healing justice to provide advocates who have already been harmed by this bill with spaces to refill their cup and unpack the acute trauma caused by these legislative sessions. Our organizations will also begin to shift focus to electing pro-equality lawmakers who understand our issues and prioritize representing the vast majority of Texans who firmly believe that discrimination against trans and LGB+ people is wrong,” he added.

Earlier this month, the Texas state government was criticized for removing web pages with resources for LGBTQ youth, including information about The Trevor Project’s crisis services. The Trevor Project the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ young people.

“Transgender and nonbinary youth are already at higher risk for poor mental health and suicide because of bullying, discrimination, and rejection. This misguided legislation will only make matters worse,” Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

To every trans Texan who may be feeling hurt and attacked by this legislation and months of ugly political debate — please know that you are valid, and you are deserving of equal opportunity, dignity and respect. The Trevor Project is here for you 24/7 if you ever need support, and we will continue fighting alongside a broad coalition of advocates to challenge this law,” Paley said.


Additional resources:

Research consistently demonstrates that transgender and nonbinary youth face unique mental health challenges and an elevated risk for bullying and suicide risk compared to their peers.  

  • The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that more than half (52%) of transgender and nonbinary youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 1 in 5 attempted suicide. 94% of LGBTQ youth reported that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health. 
  • A newly published research brief on “Bullying and Suicide Risk among LGBTQ Youth,” found that 61% of transgender and nonbinary (TGNB) students reported being bullied either in-person or electronically in the past year, compared to 45% of cisgender LGBQ students. TGNB students who were bullied in the past year reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not. And TGNB students who said their school was LGBTQ-affirming reported significantly lower rates of being bullied (55%) compared to those in schools that weren’t LGBTQ-affirming (65%).
  • A 2020 peer-reviewed study found that transgender and nonbinary youth who report experiencing discrimination based on their gender identity had more than double the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not experience discrimination based on their gender identity.
  • Trevor’s research has also found that a majority of LGBTQ young people (68%) had never participated in sports for a school or community league or club — with many citing fear of bullying and discrimination as a key factor for not participating.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at, or by texting START to 678678.

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Ohio high school cancels play with Gay character after Pastor complains

The School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month until the play was canceled



Hillsboro High School (Screenshot via Cincinnati ABC affiliate WCPO-TV)

HILLSBORO, Oh. — A Southwest Ohio high school’s play was abruptly canceled after Jeff Lyle, a local pastor from Good News Gathering, complained of a gay character. 

Hillsboro High School’s fall production of “She Kills Monsters” was scheduled to open in less than one month, until students learned the play would be canceled last week, reports Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate WCPO

The story follows a high school senior as she learns about her late sister’s life. It is implied throughout the play that her sister is gay, according to the news station.

The play’s cancellation comes a week after Lyle, a long-time voice of the anti-LGBTQ+ religious-right in Ohio, and a group of parents confronted the production’s directors at a meeting, according to Cincinnati CBS affiliate Local 12. Lyle denies pressuring school officials, but tells WCPO he supports the decision.

“From a Biblical worldview this play is inappropriate for a number of reasons, e.g. sexual innuendo, implied sexual activity between unmarried persons, repeated use of foul language including taking the Lord’s name in vain,” Lyle said. 

Some families say they believe Lyle did influence the school’s decision. 

“I think that’s wrong,” Jon Polstra, a father of one of the actors, told WCPO. “All they would have had to do if they objected to something in the play was not go to the play.”

In a statement to Local 12, Hillsboro City Schools Superintendent Tim Davis said the play was canceled because it “was not appropriate for our K-12 audience.”

The Lexington Herald Leader reports that the school planned to perform a version intended for audiences as young as 11 years old. 

Students were “devastated” and “blindsided” by the news, according to WCPO. 

“It felt like we had just been told, ‘Screw off and your lives don’t matter,'” Christopher Cronan, a Hillsboro High student, said. “I am openly bisexual in that school and I have faced a lot of homophobia there, but I never expected them to cancel a play for a fictional character.”

Cronan’s father, Ryan, also voiced his frustration. 

“They want to say the town is just not ready, but how are you not ready? It’s 2021,” Ryan Cronan said.

Students have started a GoFundMe in hopes of putting on the production at a community theater in 2022.

“If we do raise enough money, I am going to be genuinely happy for a very long time, because that means people do care,” Cronan told WCPO.

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