Almost two months after House Bill 2 became law, questions about it continue to pour in. Here’s a sampling from readers, and our best efforts to find answers. (The questions have been edited for space and clarity)
Public School/Private School
Q: Can you help clarify for me if HB2 requires private schools (such as Duke University) to enforce single-sex, multi-occupancy restrooms? Or is it just public school systems?
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Jen Headly, Durham
A: The wording of the law is fairly clear on this point. HB2 applies to schools that are controlled by the executive branch – “including the University of North Carolina (System) and the North Carolina Community College System” – as well as all educational facilities controlled by “a local board of education.” This would seem to exclude Duke and other private universities, colleges and schools that are not a “public subdivision of the state.” Private institutions can set their own bathroom policies.
Beyond the bathroom
Q: Why are other aspects of the “Bathroom Bill” going unnoticed? It takes away non-discrimination protections from local communities and also stops local communities from raising minimum wages. The news media seems to be focused on only one part of this bill.
Gary Nance, Asheboro
A: The “bathroom bill” aspect of HB2 may be getting most of the headlines because that’s where most of the friction lies. The transgender bathroom restriction was cited by Attorney General Loretta Lynch when she announced the lawsuit against her native state over HB2. The bathroom provision also dominates the complaint filed by ACLU. Supporters of the law say the bathroom provision is a commonsense protection of privacy. But it is clearly fresh gun powder in the ongoing culture wars.
Many critics do view the bathroom restrictions as part of a larger, legislative mandate to roll back LGBT protections across the state. There’s also the minimum wage restriction you cited. Many labor attorneys continue to express significant alarm at how the law largely closes off the state courts from workplace discrimination cases over sex, race, nationality, gender and other factors. It’s true that those cases can still be filed in federal court. But state courts generally are cheaper, faster for those types of cases, and have a much longer window for filing a complaint.
All that can’t easily fit in a headline or a Talk Show format. But the various components of the bill led UNC law professor Maxine Eichner to say this when we asked her why North Carolina has been singled out by the feds: “Nobody has done this before. No state has passed a law like this.”
What about CMS?
Q: Many people have claimed that the Charlotte nondiscrimination ordinance mandated allowing students at CMS facilities to use bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex if they chose. I believe that, since CMS is governed by its own elected Board of Education and many CMS facilities are located outside of Charlotte, the Charlotte ordinance did NOT apply to CMS facilities. Please clarify.
Rick Becker, Mineral Springs
A: Rick, you’re right. Gov. Pat McCrory and others continue to blame the HB2 controversy on Charlotte’s “Non-discrimination in Places of Public Accommodations Ordinance,” which they say would have left children vulnerable in public bathrooms to sexual predators. Whether that’s true or not, the ordinance would not have had any effect on Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools or private educational facilities. Charlotte City Attorney Bob Hagemann says schools were expressly excluded from the city’s ordinance, which would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom that matched their sexual identity.
Is HB2 workable?
Q: Now that HB2 is a law, how is it being enforced?
A: With some limitations, it appears. We asked Charlotte-Mecklenburg police several questions related to HB2 on Wednesday, and the department responded with a statement from CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano.
The bill establishing HB2, “does not provide for any criminal sanction or other legal remedy for a violation,” Tufano said. “In contrast, a private business can choose how to make their facilities available to their employees and customers.
“In either case, CMPD’s role will be limited to enforcing indecent exposure, trespassing, and other criminal laws.”