Communities

The Justice Department Officially Put North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill On Notice

by Jordan Crucchiola

May 4, 2016

It’s another bad day for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and everyone else willing to die on the hill of the state’s infamous “bathroom bill.” The Charlotte Observer is reporting that the Justice Department sent a letter to McCrory declaring HB2 to be in violation of the Titles IX and Title VII of U.S. Civil Rights Act, which could mean federally enforced very bad news for state funding.

You’ve heard of Title IX. It forbids discrimination based on sex, and Title VII prohibits employment discrimination. The recently passed HB2 law, which says that people must use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate and therefore bars trans people from using the bathroom of the gender they identify with, undermines both of those statutes. And it also actively bars cities from implementing ordinances that would require transgender accommodations in bathrooms. This means HB2 doesn’t just undermine the rights of trans citizens. It also says cities can’t enact inclusive policies regarding their bathroom usage.

In response the Justice Department has given North Carolina officials until Monday to course correct by “confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.” The specific language of the letter, written by principal deputy assistant attorney general Vanita Gupta, is as follows:

“Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII …

“H.B. 2 … is facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex because it treats transgender employees, whose gender identity does not match their ‘biological sex,’ as defined by H.B. 2, differently from similarly situated non-transgender employees …

“H.B. 2 places similar restrictions on access to restrooms and changing facilities for all public agencies in North Carolina. By requiring compliance with H.B. 2, you and the State are therefore resisting the full enjoyment of Title VII rights and discriminating against transgender employees of public agencies by requiring those public agencies to comply with H.B. 2.”

If officials do not comply the ramifications could be huge. As Observer puts it, “If the determination is upheld, North Carolina could lose federal education funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million in federal funding.” And losing almost a trillion dollars in education funding would be an appropriate climax to the economic impact of HB2 on the state. They’ve already had artists back out of scheduled concerts and companies remove jobs, effectively shaming North Carolina on a national stage for creating an opening discriminatory piece of legislation.

Reaction to the Justice Department’s letter has been expectedly divided along party lines, with some particularly disgusting vitriol coming from the state’s Lieutenant Governor, Dan Forest, according to the Observer. “To use our children and their educational futures as pawns to advance an agenda that will ultimately open those same children up to exploitation at the hands of sexual predators is by far, the sickest example of the depths the … administration will stoop to ‘fundamentally transform our nation.’”

Meanwhile, Democrats who don’t characterize all trans people as sex predators are heartened by the federal response, with state representative Chris Sgro saying, “The letter confirms what we’ve already known – that HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible.”

Beyoncé also voiced her disagreement with HB2 in a letter posted to her website yesterday. And we’re not saying the letter from the Justice Department is connected, but we’re not saying it isn’t either. Either way, the chances of North Carolina republicans holding on to HB2 are looking increasingly slim. And even if they manage to successfully appeal the federal condemnation, it’s impossible to see how fighting for it is worth the economic and public relations risk of implementing the law.

Hey, Pat McCrory! The year 1950 called and it wants you to return its backwards approach to civil rights.

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The Justice Department Officially Put North Carolina’s Bathroom Bill On Notice