Gay Rights Groups Sue North Carolina Over Bias Law

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By Andrew M. Ballard

March 28 — North Carolina's new law preventing local governments from extending legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is unconstitutional and discriminatory, advocacy groups say in a legal challenge. 

Labor advocates and civil rights groups have been joined by major corporations and the National Basketball Association in criticizing the state law, which was enacted in response to an effort by the city of Charlotte to expand its non-discrimination protections to cover sexual orientation and gender identity.

In addition to barring local governments from extending legal protections to certain groups of people, the measure also bars municipalities from requiring private employers and contractors to meet wage or benefit requirements not mandated by the state.

Corporate Criticism

In a lawsuit filed March 28, the ACLU and Equality North Carolina say H.B. 2 “violates their or their members' constitutional and statutory rights to equal protection, liberty, dignity, autonomy and privacy.”

A lesbian and two transgender men are also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

The National Basketball Association said March 24 that “this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and [we] do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.” American Airlines, Facebook and Google are among other large employers that have criticized the law.

In response to the national media coverage and mounting criticism of the measure, Gov. Pat McCrory (R) issued a statement March 25 saying much of the reaction was due to misinformation.

Veto in Georgia

Also March 28, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) announced he will veto controversial legislation that also had been criticized by advocacy groups, major corporations, the National Football League and others for discriminating against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community .

H.B. 757, “the Free Exercise Protection Act,” would allow individuals and faith-based organizations to refuse service to same-sex couples and refuse to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies if doing so would violate their religious beliefs. Opponents of the bill said it would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians, and major corporations urged Deal to veto the bill or risk losing their business in the state.

In announcing he would veto the measure, Deal said he sees it as potentially sanctioning discrimination and detracting from Georgia's character as a welcoming state.

With Chris Marr in Atlanta.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew M. Ballard in Raleigh, N.C., at aballard@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the complaint is at http://src.bna.com/dEb, H.B. 2 is available at http://src.bna.com/dzJ and Georgia's H.B. 757 is at http://src.bna.com/dEF.