A potentially epic clash over transgender rights took shape Monday when the U.S. Justice Department sued North Carolina over the state’s new bathroom law.
In unusually forceful language, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said North Carolina’s law requiring transgender people to use the public restroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate amounts to “state-sponsored discrimination” and is aimed at “a problem that doesn’t exist.”
She said it serves only to “harm innocent Americans.”
Billions of dollars in state aid for North Carolina — and a potentially landmark decision regarding the reach of the nation’s civil rights laws — are at stake in the dispute, which in recent weeks has triggered boycotts and cancellations aimed at getting the state to repeal the measure that took effect in March.
Last week, the U.S. Justice Department said the law amounts to illegal sex discrimination against transgender people and gave Gov. Pat McCrory until Monday to say he would refuse to enforce it.
“This is not a North Carolina issue. It is now a national issue,” said McCrory, a Republican who is up for re-election in November, declared at a news conference.
The governor accused the Obama administration of unilaterally rewriting federal civil rights law to protect transgender people’s access to bathrooms, locker rooms and showers across the country.
Later in the day, the Justice Department responded by suing North Carolina, seeking a court order declaring the law discriminatory and unenforceable.
Lynch spoke directly to residents of her native state, saying they have been falsely told by North Carolina proponents that the law protects vulnerable people from harm in bathrooms.
“Instead, what this law does, is inflict further indignity on a population that has already suffered far more than its fair share,” she said. “This law provides no benefit to society, and all it does it is harm innocent Americans.”
Defenders of the law have argued that it necessary to protect the safety and privacy of people in bathrooms. Opponents have argued that the danger of a transgender person molesting a child in a restroom is all but nonexistent.
Stars such as Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam have canceled shows in North Carolina over the new law. PayPal abandoned a planned 400-employee operation center in Charlotte, and Deutsche Bank froze expansion plans near Raleigh.
Nearly 200 corporate leaders from across the country, including Charlotte-based Bank of America, have urged the law’s repeal, arguing it is bad for business because it makes recruiting talented employees more difficult.
Several other states have proposed similar laws in recent months limiting protections for gay, bisexual and transgender people. On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sued that state over a law that will allow workers to cite their religious objections to gay marriage to deny services to people.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat running against McCrory for governor, has refused to defend the law, which was passed in reaction to a Charlotte ordinance allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
Lynch likened her agency’s involvement in the North Carolina law to the shifting expansion of civil rights that scrapped legal racial segregation and prohibitions against gay marriage.
“This is about the dignity and the respect that we accord our fellow citizens,” Lynch said. “It’s about the founding ideals that have led this country, haltingly but inexorably in the direction of fairness, inclusion and equality for all Americans.”
The new North Carolina law also excludes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protection and bars local governments from adopting their own anti-bias measures.
The Justice Department noted a ruling last month by a federal appeals court that a transgender Virginia high school student has a right to use bathrooms that correspond with his new identity. The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is binding on five states, including North Carolina. Virginia is seeking a re-hearing by the entire appeals court.
The U.S. Education Department and other federal agencies could try to cut off money to North Carolina to force compliance.
The state university system risks losing more than $1.4 billion in federal funds. An additional $800 million in federally backed loans for students who attend the public universities could also be at risk.
A federal court already ruled in favor of transgender people and it is good because this time around it is going to be a landmark case, it is going to be the Justice Department VS the State of North Carolina that i will be a crucial legal recourse on transgender rights
Here is the story below :
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory on Monday filed a lawsuit against the federal government after it warned the state last week to back down from its controversial LGBT law or risk losing millions of dollars in funding.
The suit is the governor’s response to the federal government, which gave the state until the end of the day Monday to say it would not enforce the law that bans transgender people from certain bathrooms, the Associated Press reports. “I’m taking this initiative to ensure that North Carolina continues to receive federal funding until the courts resolve this issue,” McCrory said in a statement.
“The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina,” he added. “This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level. They are now telling every government agency and every company that employs more than 15 people that men should be allowed to use a women’s locker room, restroom or shower facility.”
The Justice Department last Wednesday notified the state in a letter that the law violates federal Civil Rights Act protections barring workplace discrimination based on sex. The department’s position is a “baseless and blatant overreach,” McCrory said in the complaint, which was filed inFederal District Court of the Eastern District of North Carolina. “This is an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws,” the lawsuit says.
“The department’s threat is real but misplaced,” it adds. “North Carolina does not treat transgender employees differently from non-transgender employees. All state employees are required to use the bathroom and changing facilities assigned to persons of their same biological sex, regardless of gender identity, or transgender status.”
North Carolina is now asking the federal courts to “clarify federal law” and say that the law in question, which went into effect in March, is not discriminatory, McCrory said. The governor said he asked the federal government for more time to respond but said that request was denied.
The Justice Department did not immediately comment on Monday.
North Carolina Turns to Prominent Conservative Lawyer to Defend ‘Bathroom’ Law
Judge assigned to the case is a Reagan appointee whose nomination to the Fourth Circuit stalled amid Democratic opposition.
Updated at 4:05 p.m.
A go-to lawyer for Republican governors facing scandal and controversy will represent North Carolina Gov. Patrick McCrory as he defends a state law that requires transgender state employees to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificates.
Karl “Butch” Bowers Jr. of Bowers Law Office in Columbia, South Carolina, is part of the legal team that sued the U.S. Department of Justice on McCrory’s behalf on Monday. Last week, the Justice Department threatened legal action over the law, known as HB2.
Bowers is a lead attorney in one of three lawsuits filed on Monday related to the contested North Carolina law, known as HB2. Several hours after McCrory filed suit, two state legislators sued the Justice Department in defense of the law. Then the Justice Department sued McCrory, several days after threatening legal action.
A former special counsel for voting matters in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush, Bowers is also representing McCrory in separate litigation over the state’s voter identification law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
Gupta last week called HB2 discriminatory and in violation of the federal Civil Rights Act. She asked McCrory to respond by Monday with a pledge not to enforce the law. McCrory struck back with Monday’s lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. The complaint seeks a ruling that HB2 is lawful.
Bowers did not immediately return a request for comment, nor did his co-counsel, Robert Stevens, general counsel in the governor’s office, and William Stewart Jr. of Millberg Gordon Stewart in Raleigh.
The case is before U.S. District Judge Terrence Boyle, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. A former legislative aide to former North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms, Boyle repeatedly faced Democratic opposition when two presidents—the elder Bush and the younger Bush—unsuccessfully tried to nominate him to the Fourth Circuit.
Boyle was nominated to the Fourth Circuit in 1991, and then six more times between 2001 and 2006, according to judiciary records. The Senate never voted on his nomination. Legal Times reported in 2007 that Democratic opposition to Boyle was in part political payback for Helms’ blocking of judicial nominees during the Clinton administration.
Governors’ go-to lawyer
McCrory is the latest in a line of Republican governors to seek Bowers’ help.
Bowers represented South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in ethics proceedings in the state Legislature about whether she illegally lobbied for private companies while she was a member of the House. The ethics committee cleared her of wrongdoing in 2012.
Bowers counseled former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who faced impeachment after he disappeared for several days in 2009 on what was later revealed to be a trip to Argentina to visit his mistress. Sanford also faced an ethics investigation into his use of state resources for personal travel. South Carolina Republicans ultimately censured Sanford but did not vote to impeach him.
In 2007, Bowers took a one-year leave from private practice to serve as special counsel for voting matters in the Justice Department. The following year, he served as a lawyer to the presidential campaign of Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, in Florida.
In 2012, Bowers joined a team of lawyers representing South Carolina in litigation over the state’s voter identification law. A special three-judge panel in Washington found that the law was not discriminatory, although the judges blocked it from taking effect for the November 2012 election.
Less than a year later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a key section of the federal Voting Rights Act that in effect eliminated the requirement that states such as South Carolina seek court approval before making changes to election processes.
There are now four lawsuits pending over HB2.