The federal judge who will preside over one of the trials challenging House Bill 2 issued a ruling on Friday that blocks the UNC system from enforcing the bathroom portion of the controversial law for three transgender residents who have challenged it.
In the 81-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder said it is likely that the transgender challengers will succeed in their argument that HB2 violates federal law, in part because of how an appeals court with jurisdiction over North Carolina has ruled in a Virginia teen’s case.
HB2, adopted in late March, requires people in schools, universities and other government facilities to use bathrooms matching the gender on their birth certificates. Another part of the law that was not challenged in this lawsuit forbids local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws stronger than state law, which does not explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Schroeder’s ruling was issued late Friday afternoon in the lawsuit filed by Lambda Legal, a gay rights advocacy group, and the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of:
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▪ Joaquin Carcaño, a Latino, transgender man who works at the UNC-Chapel Hill Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease,
▪ Payton Grey McGarry, a white, transgender man and full-time student at UNC-Greensboro, where he is double-majoring in business administration and accounting.
▪ Angela Gilmore, an African-American lesbian who lives in Durham and works at the N.C. Central University school of law.
▪ Hunter Schafer, a transgender girl at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School in Winston-Salem.
▪ Beverly Newell, a real estate agent, and Kelly Trent, 39, a registered nurse, who are a married lesbian couple living in Charlotte.
Schroeder ordered UNC to go back to the “status quo” for Carcano, McGarry and Schafer, noting that counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory, one of the defendants in the case, had said during a hearing earlier this month that transgender residents had probably been using the restrooms that matched their identities, not necessarily what was on their birth certificate, for years and “will continue to use the bathroom that they always used and nobody will know.”
“Today is a great day for me and hopefully this is the start to chipping away at the injustice of HB2 that is harming thousands of other transgender people who call North Carolina home. Today, the tightness that I have felt in my chest every day since HB2 passed has eased. But the fight is not over: we won’t rest until this discriminatory law is defeated,” Carcaño said in a statement.
Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican from Eden, and House leader Tim Moore, a Republican from Kings Mountain, issued a statement partially praising the ruling.
“While the court granted a limited injunction for three individuals,” Berger and Moore said in a joint statement, “we are pleased it preserved the commonsense protections to keep grown men out of bathrooms and showers with women and young girls for our public schools and for nearly 10 million North Carolinians statewide.”
Others who challenged the law described the partial block of HB2 enforcement a step in the right direction.
“We are thrilled that the court put a temporary stop to some of the grave harm HB 2 imposes on our transgender clients,” said Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal senior attorney. “This ruling is an important first step to make sure that thousands of LGBT people who call North Carolina home – particularly transgender people – get the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. As we prepare for trial, we are more determined than ever to ensure equal justice for all North Carolinians.”
UNC President Margaret Spellings has said the UNC system does not plan to enforce HB2, noting that the law contains no enforcement measures.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender Virginia high school student blocked from using bathrooms and locker rooms matching his gender identity. The appeals court cited Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational environments, and highlighted the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation that Title IX covers gender identity.