UNC system President Margaret Spellings has issued guidance to chancellors about how to comply with the new law known as House Bill 2, and gay rights advocacy groups were quick to denounce the university’s stance.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety, and well being of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender,” said a joint statement Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality NC. “By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people – it also violates federal law.”
Since the controversial law was passed and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, university officials have tried to walk a fine line, saying they were studying the law and its impact and expressing support for the LGBTQ community.
Spellings’ memo says campuses aren’t required to change their nondiscrimination policies, but must designate, with signage, that multi-stalled bathrooms and changing facilities are for use by a single biological gender. Single-occupancy bathrooms can remain gender-neutral.
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“Like all public agencies, the University is required to fulfill its obligations under the law unless or until the court directs otherwise,” said Spellings’ memo, dated April 5.
The memo further says the university system will work with the Attorney General’s Office “to make arrangements for counsel in the lawsuit” challenging the law by Lambda Legal, the ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina, on behalf of a UNC-Chapel Hill employee, a UNC-Greensboro student and a North Carolina Central University law professor.
Attorney General Roy Cooper has refused to defend the state against the lawuit, which challenges the constitutionality of the new law.
The UNC-CH employee plaintiff, Joaquín Carcaño, 27, a transgender man, issued a statement criticizing the university’s position. “Not only does this policy fail to protect my rights as a loyal and hard-working employee and make it harder for me to do my job, it sides with ignorance and fear,” the statement said. “All I want is to use the appropriate restroom, in peace, just like everyone else. But now I am put in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room, where I don’t belong and am uncomfortable, or breaking the law.”
Spellings’ memo pointed out that House Bill 2 contains no provisions for enforcement of the bathroom and locker room requirements.