ACLU challenges the ‘bathroom bill’ reform
A nearly three-year long lawsuit stemming from North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom law” reached little conclusion Friday, as lawyers for the legislature, the governor and six LGBTQ plaintiffs continue to clash about the law that replaced it.
Lawyers for Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and the plaintiffs want to enter into an agreement saying that the replacement law for House Bill 2, HB 142, cannot be used to prevent transgender people from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity in buildings controlled by state government.
But lawyers for the N.C. General Assembly have objected to that agreement. They say it’s too vague, would raise questions about federalism and could create additional court fights.
A federal judge in Winston-Salem asked the parties to try to come to an amended agreement by the end of the month.
Judge Thomas Shroeder, who was appointed by George W. Bush, had previously ruled that HB142 does not bar trans people from using the restroom that aligns with their gender identity.
But Chase Strangio, a lawyer for the ACLU who is representing the plaintiffs, said that the agreement would make that ruling explicit.
As it stands, it would also allow cities and other jurisdictions to interpret their local laws to bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“People really need protections right now in this state,” he said. “We want North Carolinians to feel safe and protected by the laws, and so that is really what this is trying to effectuate and resolve this incredibly long-running litigation.”
Gene Schaerr, a lawyer for the General Assembly, did not respond to a request for comment.
From HB2 to HB142
The agreement in question is the latest tug-of-war between various branches of government on transgender people’s use of public restrooms — and who can pass laws on the matter.
In 2016, Charlotte tried to expand its nondiscrimination ordinance to explicitly allow transgender people to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity in schools and other government facilities.
HB2, which was signed into law at the state level in response, did the opposite: It required that people use the bathroom matching the sex listed on their birth certificate.
Following national boycotts of that law, the state legislature replaced it with HB142, which is weaker but still overrides Charlotte: It prohibits municipalities from regulating restrooms and blocks them until December 2020 from enacting nondiscrimination policies that go farther than state law.
The ACLU and Lambda Legal, which are representing the plaintiffs, have argued that the replacement law doesn’t explicitly protect transgender people in using the bathroom consistent with their gender identity.