The United States Department of Justice is filing a civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina, following a “bathroom bill” passed there. The bill, known as HB2, is said to violate the federal Civil Rights Act. The Justice Department has informed North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory that he needed to provide assurance that the state would not implement the bill.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced that she would press charges against the state earlier this week, arguing that the “bathroom bill” issue is the civil rights struggle of this era.
“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference. We’ve moved beyond those dark days,” she said.
The bill in question requires people to use the restroom that corresponds to the gender they were assigned at birth. The bill is meant for the “protection of the sexes,” the bill argues, as it desperately tries to erase trans and non-binary people from conversation. The suit against the state specifies how gender identity and sex intersect, including all of the factors that may come in to play. Even if factors aren’t aligned with one another, a “person’s gender identity is the primary factor in terms of establish[ing] that person’s sex,” the suit says.
In his response to the Department’s lawsuit and commentary, McCrory alleges the bill is not discriminatory because “all state employees are required to use the bathroom and changing facilities assigned to persons of their same biological sex, regardless of gender identity, or transgender status.” He argues that HB2 does not treat transgender employees any differently than cisgender employees because they all must abide by this law.
Not surprisingly, the Department openly disagrees. “Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment,” their paperwork states. “Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situation non-transgender employees, violates Title VII.”
North Carolina has requested an extension on its decision to use the law. However, the state is now in turn suing the Justice Department, which is unlikely to receive much traction.
Lynch said in a press conference that the people in the Obama administration would “do everything we can to protect you going forward.”