Update: North Carolina Sues Federal Government Over Bathroom Law

Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP Images.
Update: May 9, 2016, 5:00 p.m.: After the state filed a lawsuit against the federal government, the Justice Department filed a countersuit against North Carolina. The government's lawsuit against the state claims that North Carolina is violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the Education Acts Amendment of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, CNN reported.

Update: May 9, 2016, 10:30 a.m.:
The fight over North Carolina's controversial law on bathroom access is headed for the courts. The state filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Monday, contesting the Justice Department's warning that it could lose millions of dollars in federal funding under the law, NBC News and other outlets reported. The letter gave North Carolina a deadline of 5 p.m. Monday to confirm that it would not enforce the law.
Update: May 4, 2016: The U.S. Department of Justice has announced that North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill” limiting protection for LGBTQ people is unenforceable, according to The Associated Press.

The Department of Justice notified Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday that the law violates Civil Rights Act legislation, which forbids discrimination based on sex. While the notification doesn’t force the state to act, it is a warning that the state will be vulnerable to lawsuits by those whose rights are being violated. The letter seeks confirmation by Monday that the state will retract the controversial bill and inform state employees of their rights — including access to their preferred bathroom — under federal law.

Update: April 23, 2016:
President Obama spoke out against bills discriminating against transgender and LGBTQ individuals in a press conference in London on Friday, saying that the laws passed in two states are “wrong and should be overturned.”

The Guardian reported that the statement came in response to a question about a travel advisory that the U.K. Foreign Office had issued to LGBTQ tourists, warning them against visiting the states of North Carolina and Mississippi. Both states have recently passed restrictive bills, which strip protections against discrimination from LGBTQ residents. In North Carolina, public attention focused on an aspect of the bill which required transgender individuals to use the bathroom aligned with the gender on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity, a requirement that critics and activists have said puts trans individuals at risk. The bill was harshly criticized by opponents and the media. Social blowback turned economic when several businesses, including Paypal and Deutsche Bank, canceled plans to expand in the state in response to the legislation.

In his answer, Obama said that the laws were a result of politics and “strong emotion.” He added that though he disagreed with the laws, the residents of the two states were ultimately good people and he encouraged tourists to visit. “I want everybody here in the United Kingdom to know that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people,” he said. “If you guys come to North Carolina or Mississippi, everybody will be treated well.”
Update: April 14, 2016: North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has responded to growing backlash against legislation that eliminated protections for LGBTQ individuals, by issuing an executive order to soften some of the discriminatory provisions included in the new law, according to The Washington Post.
The governor signed an order on Tuesday which would reinstate employment protection for LGBTQ state employees, preventing them from being fired on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. He also said that he would ask legislators to reinstate LGBTQ individuals' right to sue in cases of discrimination. He did not, however, address the controversial provision that requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate, rather than how they identity.

Since the original bill stripping protections for LGBTQ North Carolinians passed in a special session at the end of March, the state has seen social and economic fallout. Large corporations, like PayPal and and Deutsche Bank, have called off plans to expand in North Carolina, costing the state economy an expected influx of jobs and money. The ACLU has also announced that it will sue Gov. McCrory and several other authorities over the discriminatory bill.

Update: March 28, 2016: The ACLU has announced that it will sue North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), Attorney General Roy Cooper III, and W. Louis Bissette Jr., the chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina, over the state's new law, ABC News reported. In addition to civil rights activists, corporations including Google and Apple have criticized the law, which forbids people from using restrooms that don't correspond with their birth genders.
"By singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, (the new law) violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution," the lawsuit claims, according to a report from The Associated Press.

This story was originally published on March 24, 2016.

In a startlingly swift political maneuver, North Carolina adopted a new law eliminating protections for LGBTQ individuals across the state and prohibiting cities from enacting new ones.

The state ordinance, which bans individuals from using public restrooms that don't match their gender at birth, was pushed through on Wednesday in a special one-day session and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory late that night, according to the Associated Press. The legislation also bans municipalities from enacting new nondiscrimination laws and prohibits cities from raising their minimum wage above the state level.

The bill was channelled through the legislature so quickly that some lawmakers hadn’t even seen it before it was introduced on Wednesday morning, according to The New York Times. In the state Senate, the bill sailed through on a 32-0 vote after Democrats walked out in protest. Senate Democratic leader Dan Blue said in a statement that the proposal was "a direct affront to equality, civil rights, and local autonomy."

The move came in response to an antidiscrimination ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte, NC, which would have gone into effect April 1. The Charlotte ordinance expanded nondiscrimination laws to cover LGBTQ individuals in the city, allowing people to use their preferred bathroom and prohibiting businesses from denying services based on gender identity or sexuality. Legislators overturned that ordinance with a statewide nondiscrimination law that omits LGBTQ individuals from the list of protected classes.

North Carolina's new measure is in line not only with federal law, but with the policies enacted in many other states. Federal law prohibits discrimination based on age, disability, sex, national origin, race, and religion, but doesn’t include gender identity or sexual orientation. On the state level, 30 states allow discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in the workplace, and 37 states allow it in schools, according to Vox.

In North Carolina, arguments against the Charlotte measure hinged heavily on the issue of bathroom access, according to The Charlotte Observer. State Rep. Dan Bishop, a Republican who helped co-sponsor the statewide bill, said that without the issue of bathroom flexibility, the state would likely have allowed the city's policy to remain unchallenged.

"We might not be here today," he said.

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