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May 4 — A controversial new North Carolina law (H.B. 2) that, among other things, requires people to use public restrooms associated with their gender at birth, violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Justice Department said.
The law is “facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex,” the DOJ said in a May 4 letter to Gov. Pat McCrory (R).
The letter asks McCrory to respond by May 9 “whether you will remedy these violations … by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement H.B. 2.” It also asks McCrory to notify public employees “that, consistent with federal law, they are permitted to access bathrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.”
DOJ shares authority with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce Title VII in the state and local government sector.
The governor's office didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
The North Carolina law was passed in response to an ordinance adopted by the Charlotte City Council in February. That ordinance extended legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The subsequently enacted state law prohibits municipalities from extending legal protections to LGBT employees, prohibits localities from requiring private employers or contractors to meet wage or benefit requirements not mandated by the state and limits legal recourse for discrimination lawsuits (57 DLR A-9, 3/24/16).
The DOJ letter doesn't address the other provisions of the North Carolina law. The department said it sent similar letters to the University of North Carolina and the state Department of Public Safety.
H.B. 2 has been the subject of legal challenges and has brought financial repercussions, including the cancellation of high-profile music concerts, companies' expansion plans and other loss of business.
Companies including PayPal Holdings Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG announced they were pulling back from plans to expand in the state. Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr canceled concerts, and the governors of New York, Connecticut and other states ordered a halt to nonessential government travel to North Carolina.
President Barack Obama criticized the North Carolina law and a similar one in Mississippi last month at a news conference during a trip to the U.K. Responding to a U.K. travel advisory about the new laws, Obama said, “The people of North Carolina and Mississippi are wonderful people. I also think that the laws that have been passed there are wrong and should be overturned.”
McCrory April 12 issued an executive order that adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the bases on which state employees are protected from discrimination, harassment or retaliation on the job and “affirms the private sector and local governments' right to establish non-discrimination employment policies” for their own employees.
However, the governor said the order also “maintains common sense gender-specific restroom and locker room facilities in government buildings and schools” (70 DLR A-12, 4/12/16).
North Carolina Speaker of the House Tim Moore (R) said the DOJ letters represent an effort by the Obama administration to “unilaterally exert its extreme agenda on the people directly through executive orders, radical interpretations of well-settled common-sense laws and through the federal court system.”
According to Moore, the letters “are not court decrees or automatic declarations of law and the issues raised in the letters are far from being decided.”
The speaker said in his May 4 statement that he would discuss the matter with Senate leaders and the governor to decide their response.
Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, executive director of the Campaign for Southern Equality, told Bloomberg BNA in a May 4 e-mail that the letter “confirms what was clear from the start, HB2 is discriminatory and unconstitutional.”
“We continue to call for the immediate repeal of HB2” and full legal protections for LGBT citizens of North Carolina, Beach-Ferrara said.
While Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) championed the state’s bathroom law in his unsuccessful campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, presumptive nominee Donald J. Trump has said people in North Carolina should “use the bathroom they feel is appropriate.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at firstname.lastname@example.org
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