DOJ threatens North Carolina to repeal transgender bathroom law

UPDATE – 10:11 p.m. EST: The Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives told reporters Thursday that his colleagues in the legislature will not meet DOJ’s Monday deadline to call off enforcement of the transgender bathroom provision of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.

“That deadline will come and go. We don’t ever want to lose any money, but we’re not going to get bullied by the Obama administration to take action prior to Monday’s date. That’s not how this works,” said Speaker Tim Moore.

Democrats in the state House support DOJ’s effort to stop the law from being enforced, but they are in the minority and don’t have the votes to force the state to comply with DOJ’s order, which cites the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

State Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-High Point) tweeted the following on Thursday:

 

A Justice Department (DOJ) letter to three North Carolina executive departments on Wednesday informed state authorities that parts of the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act passed in March violates federal civil rights statutes because it discriminates “against transgender state employees.”

While the ACLU and Lambda, a LGBT legal rights group, have filed a lawsuit against the state over House Bill 2 (HB2) in federal court, Wednesday’s order from DOJ may force North Carolina to abandon enforcement of its legislation before a judicial ruling is decided.

DOJ subsequently stated that withholding federal funds from the state is not its preferred method of forcing compliance, but it remains that North Carolina could be in jeopardy of losing public school subsidies in the future.  In 2015-2016, federal education grants to the Tarheel State totaled $861 million.

The law in question requires people to use the bathroom matching the gender specified on their birth certificate.  Proponents argue that it protects females from the threat of sexual assault and that DOJ is over-reaching its authority, but HB2 was passed by the state legislature in response to a Charlotte city ordinance which became law shortly beforehand.

The Charlotte law explicitly stated that transgenders were allowed to use the public restroom of their choice and granted LGBT individuals legal protections against discrimination.

DOJ set a Monday deadline for North Carolina to respond to the order “by confirming that the state will not comply with or implement HB2.”

“This is no longer just a North Carolina issue. This impacts every state, every university and almost every employee in the United States of America,” Republican Gov. Pat McCrory said Wednesday evening. “All those will have to comply with new definitions of requirements by the federal government regarding restrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities in both the private and public sector.”

In its letter, DOJ specifically cites the HB2 as violating Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ban gender and employment discrimination.

Public backlash against the optics of the political situation in North Carolina has already caused some high-profile entertainment acts to cancel events in the state, as well as the threat of cancellations by professional sports leagues, like the NBA, and companies who had previously planned to relocate to the state.

“We’ve already lost $500 million in economic impact, and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title IX funding,” complained Democratic State Rep. Chris Sgro.

Hitting North Carolina in its pocketbook may be the only punishment that the state’s conservative legislature will respond to. Now that they are threatened financially by both private and public parties, its only a matter of time before HB2 is repealed.

 

[Reuters] [The Charlotte Observer] [Photo courtesy Toby Talbot/AP]