North Carolina, Justice Department trade lawsuits over bathroom bill

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A flurry of policies affecting transgender people has swept the country in recent weeks, leading to widespread protests, economic losses and a growing debate about equality and privacy.

4 Fast Facts

  • North Carolina files lawsuit against Justice Department over controversial bathroom bill
  • The bill bans individuals from using bathrooms that don’t correspond to biological sex
  • State faced Monday deadline to respond to letter saying law violated Civil Rights Act
  • Justice Department filed their own lawsuit against the state

Breaking news update published at 3:34 p.m.

The U.S. government filed a lawsuit Monday against North Carolina saying that state entities were in violation of provisions in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX the Education Acts Amendment of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act that outlaw discrimination on the basis of sex. The lawsuit comes hours after Gov. Pat McCrory sued the Justice Department, asking a federal court to rule whether the state’s so-called bathroom bill violated U.S. law.

Original story:

North Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Justice Department to defend House Bill 2, a law that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex, according to a court document.

The move is in response to a letter the Justice Department sent last week warning Gov. Pat McCrory that the law is in violation of the Civil Rights Act and giving him until Monday to “remedy the situation.”

The state’s lawsuit calls the Justice Department’s position a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act” and “a baseless and blatant overreach.”

Before Monday’s action, McCrory repeatedly said his response to the Justice Department would resonate beyond the Tar Heel state — it will affect the majority of Americans.

“This is no longer just a North Carolina issue,” he said in a Fox News interview on Sunday. “This is a basic change of norms that we’ve used for decades throughout the United States of America and the Obama administration is now trying to change that norm — again not just in North Carolina, but they’re ordering this to every company in the United States of America — starting tomorrow I assume, or Tuesday.”

Federal funds

North Carolina could lose a lot of federal money for failing to comply with the Justice Department — potentially hundreds of millions of dollars for its universities alone.

The Justice Department also sent a letter to the University of North Carolina Board of Governors telling them that new law was in violation of federal law. They were given the same Monday deadline.

McCrory said Sunday that this action sets a precedent, with the federal government “now telling every university that accepts federal funding that boys who may think they’re a girl can go into a girl’s locker room or restroom or shower facility, and that begins I assume tomorrow.”

‘Bullies’

Beyond his support for the bill’s content, McCrory’s argument against the feds is twofold — that the state of North Carolina hasn’t been given enough time to respond and that the federal government is overstepping its authority.

“This unrealistic deadline by the federal government is quite amazing,” he said in his Fox News interview. “It’s the federal government being a bully.”

McCrory also points to the fact that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act uses the term “sex” when it comes to gender issues, and “Congress does not define sex” as something that can be chosen.

“The Justice Department is making law for the federal government as opposed to enforcing it,” McCrory said.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder disagrees, and said in a 2014 memorandum that transgender discrimination claims are covered under Title VII. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission also interprets Title VII as forbidding discrimination against transgender people

Lawsuits and petitions

House Bill 2 puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex and stops cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender identity. That power is reserved for the state under the new law.

Since its passage in March, it’s drawn a flurry of condemnation from civil liberties groups, LGBT advocates, Democrats and some business leaders.

The ACLU and two transgender men have filed suit against the government.

Musicians Bruce Springsteen, Demi Lovato, Nick Jonas, and the bands Pearl Jam and Boston have canceled concerts in the state — which has cost one major venue nearly $200,000 in ticket sales.

PayPal and Deutsche Bank have both canceled plans to expand into North Carolina.

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