In a move that already has a majority of the nation’s states saying they’ll join in a move to fight the Obama administration, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the Justice Department will file a federal civil rights lawsuit to declare North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill” discriminatory and bar its implementation. Lynch accused legislators of creating state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals.
“This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does is harm vulnerable Americans,” she said in an afternoon press conference to announce the suit. “This action is about a great deal more than bathrooms. This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we as a people and as a country enacted to protect them—indeed to protect all of us.”
North Carolina filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on May 9 to preemptively defend its law that protects public establishments from being forced to provide restroom and locker room access based on gender identity rather than biology.
On May 4, the Obama administration formally scolded North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, by issuing a letter demanding the state overturn its restroom law, known as HB2, or face the loss of millions in federal funding. The Justice Department claimed the law discriminates against transgender individuals, who it said make up a protected class under the Civil Rights Act, by not allowing them to use the restrooms that match their self-determined gender identity.
McCrory asked for and was denied an extension to respond to the DOJ, which gave him three business days to “remedy the situation.” The governor said the DOJ responded it would only grant an extension if he publicly admitted the law is discriminatory. “I could not agree to do that because I do not agree with their interpretation of federal law. So this morning I have asked for a federal court to clarify this,” McCrory said at a news conference today.
Court battles will now determine the fate of HB2 and whether businesses and schools across the country need to provide special accommodations for transgender individuals. But McCrory also called on Congress to take action.
“Ultimately, I think it is time for the U.S. Congress to bring clarity to our national anti-discrimination provisions under Title VII and Title IX,” he said
Today’s lawsuit said the Justice Department’s assertions are baseless and a blatant overreach of power. The suit said the department is trying to rewrite federal law on its own volition and disregarding what the law actually says. It claimed the Obama administration has a “radical reinterpretation” of the Civil Rights Act.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. A similar provision in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 says federally funded educational institutions cannot discriminate on the basis of sex. The Justice Department claims gender identity falls under sex, which is a federally protected class.
McCrory said in a Fox News interview Sunday that sex corresponds with biology, not people’s personal beliefs about their bodies. He said how he responds to the federal request will have implications for the rest of the country.
“This is no longer just a North Carolina issue,” McCrory said. “This is a basic change of norms that we’ve used for decades throughout the United States of America, and the Obama administration is now trying to change that norm—again not just in North Carolina.”
The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) agrees the administration has a flawed interpretation of what federal law protects. Last week, ADF filed suit against the DOJ for its actions against North Carolina.
“It’s absurd to assert, as the Department of Justice does, that by placing the word ‘sex’ in federal nondiscrimination laws, Congress intended to force states to open their restrooms to people of the opposite biological sex,” said Kellie Fiedorek, legal counsel with ADF. “Gov. McCrory and the state of North Carolina are fulfilling their duty to protect the privacy rights of their citizens. The DOJ should stop bullying North Carolina with falsehoods about what federal law requires.”
If defeated, North Carolina could lose its right to set up its own restroom policies, along with an exorbitant amount of money. The letter included a notice for state universities also to change their restroom policies. North Carolina schools could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding if they refuse to comply.
McCrory said Sunday whatever happens to North Carolina’s universities will also set a national precedent for the thousands of schools in America that receive federal dollars.
“[The DOJ is] now telling every university that accepts federal funding that boys who may think they’re a girl can go into a girl’s locker room or restroom or shower facility,” McCrory told Fox New
Amid public outcry after McCrory signed the HB2 in March, he made an executive order to help appease concerns. Originally, the law applied to all public restrooms in the state, including private businesses, McCrory said. But the executive order allowed for the private sector to make its own rules for its facilities, and the law now only pertains to government offices, universities, and roadside rest stops.
By Evan Wilt