Anti-Transgender Law Violates Civil Rights Act, Says Justice Department

North Carolina’s new transgender bathroom law violates the Civil Rights Act, the Department of Justice said in a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday.

According to the letter (posted by WRAL), McCrory and the state of North Carolina are “engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees.”

“Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act of 1964] prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual on the basis of sex and from otherwise resisting the full enjoyment of Title VII rights. Federal courts and administrative agencies have applied Title VII to discrimination against transgender individuals based on sex, including gender identity.”

McCrory signed House Bill 2, which states that public bathrooms are “to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex,” on March 23. The controversial bill prevents transgender people from using the facility that corresponds with their gender identity.

McCrory made a statement in response to the letter but did not indicate what action he plans to take.

“A claim by the Obama administration charges that one part of House Bill 2, which requires state employees in public government buildings and students in our universities to use a restroom, locker room and shower facility that match their biological sex, is now in violation of federal law. The Obama administration has not only staked out its position for North Carolina, but for all states, universities and most employers in the U.S.,” McCrory said. “The right and expectation of privacy in one of the most private areas of our personal lives is now in jeopardy. We will be reviewing to determine the next steps.”

The controversial bill came about in response to an anti-discrimination ordinance passed in Charlotte, North Carolina, in February that provided legal protection for LGBT people including letting transgender people use the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. HB2 nullified this ordinance, with defenders of the bill said the issue was regarding “privacy.”

“The way the ordinance was written by [the] City Council in Charlotte, it would have allowed a man to go into a bathroom, locker or any changing facility, where women are even if he was a man. We were concerned,” North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore said at the time HB2 was reviewed. “Obviously there is the security risk of a sexual predator, but there is the issue of privacy.”

McCrory defended his decision to sign the bill on Twitter the night he signed it.

“Ordinance defied common sense, allowing men to use women’s bathroom/locker room for instance,” the governor tweeted. “That’s why I signed bipartisan bill to stop it.”

HB2 also prevents cities from passing similar ordinances to the one enacted in Charlotte in the future, instead leaving this power to the state.

The law has garnered the state a lot of negative attention from celebrities, politicians and businesses. The NBA released a statement saying that the law may affect the 2017 All-Star Game currently planned to take place in Charlotte. Numerous musicians have also cancelled concerts scheduled in the state.

IBM (No. 20 on the 2016 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity), one of the state’s largest employers, publicly criticized the law and said it would “continue to follow its global non-discrimination policies in the workplace,” adding that “an inclusive and welcoming environment is the best way to attract talented individuals to our company.”

Related Story: Mayors Unite Against Discrimination

Ten mayors from various states around the country came together to protest the bill, forming a coalition called Mayors Against Discrimination (MAD). The mayors agreed to work with each other to “develop model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies, and other measures that Mayors and cities can take individually and collectively.” One of these resolutions was forbidding government employees from the mayors’ respective cities from any non-essential travel to North Carolina. The coalition is also teaming up with businesses, including Wells Fargo (No. 12), “to apply direct political and economic pressure to repeal or stop the alarming spread of discriminatory laws in the United States.”

North Carolina also faced a lawsuit just a week after the bill was signed into law. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina, Equality North Carolina and three individuals (two transgender men and one lesbian) filed the suit, which says the law, in addition to being unconstitutional, “wreaks far greater damage by also prohibiting local governments in North Carolina from enacting express anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

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