The Justice Department on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said during a Washington press conference that the law violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Act.
McCrory in March 23 signed HB 2, which bans transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity and prohibits local municipalities from enacting LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination measures. The North Carolina Legislature approved the bill earlier that day in response to the Charlotte City Council’s approval of an LGBT rights measure.
“They created state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security — a right taken for granted by most of us,” said Lynch during a press conference in Washington.
The McCrory administration faced a Monday deadline from the Justice Department to stop enforcing HB 2. The Justice Department 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 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.
“While the lawsuit currently seeks declaratory relief, I want to note that we retain the option of curtailing federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina as this case proceeds,” said Lynch.
McCrory earlier on Monday announced that his administration had filed a federal lawsuit against the Justice Department over its demand that it stop enforcing HB 2.
McCrory told reporters in Raleigh the Justice Department refused his request for an extension of the deadline “unless I made a statement where i would publicly agree with their interpretation of federal law.”
“An extension was requested by North Carolina and was under active consideration,” said Lynch during her press conference. “But instead of replying to our offer or providing a certification, this morning, the state of North Carolina and its governor chose to respond by suing the Department of Justice. As a result of their decisions, we are now moving forward.”
LGBT rights advocates were quick to applaud the Justice Department’s lawsuit.
“This represents a historic moment not just in the fight over this terrible law in North Carolina, but for all of the many attempts we’ve seen across the country this year to codify discrimination against LGBT people – particularly transgender Americans,” said Freedom for All Americans Executive Director Matt McTighe. “The attorney general reminded all of us today that bills and laws like HB 2 aren’t just often illegal, but they’re morally wrong. History will not look kindly upon Governor McCrory and others who perpetuate this type of discrimination.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT legal group, defended McCrory in a press release it issued after his administration sued the Justice Department.
“The federal government is threatening North Carolina for lawfully enacting common-sense legislation that simply protects people’s privacy and respects the right of private businesses to set their own policies,” said Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek.