Transgender Law Center applauds today’s law enforcement action by the Department of Justice, filing a lawsuit in federal court challenging the provision of HB2 that that excludes transgender people from being able to use restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identity.
“We commend Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the Obama administration for taking this clear and bold action to challenge North Carolina’s unjust law and ensure the state’s transgender community can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination and harassment,” said Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center. “As the Attorney General said in her moving speech today, transgender people are simply trying to live our lives in safety and dignity, and singling us out for discrimination goes against not only our country’s laws but our values.”
The Department’s complaint stresses that HB2 singles out transgender people for denial of equal treatment, and stigmatizes them by creating a sense that they are not worthy of respect. In her speech announcing the Justice Department’s action, Attorney General Loretta Lynch stated:
“Today, we filed a federal civil rights complaint in federal court in the Middle District of North Carolina. Before I discuss the details of our legal argument, I want to make one thing clear. Calling H.B. 2 a “bathroom bill” trivializes what this is really about. H.B. 2 translates into discrimination in the real world. The complaint we filed today speaks to public employees who feel afraid and stigmatized on the job. It speaks to students who feel like their campus treats them differently because of who they are. It speaks to sports fans who feel forced to choose between their gender identity and their identity as a Tar Heel. And it speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior – like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in. Let me reassure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are. You are supported. And you are protected.”
Last week, the Department of Justice gave North Carolina a deadline of today to assure the federal government the state would not enforce HB2. Instead, North Carolina Governor Patrick McCrory and two members of the North Carolina legislature filed two separate lawsuits against the federal government to defend HB2. The Department of Justice followed with today’s legal action against North Carolina.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit named as defendants North Carolina Governor Patrick McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina.
The complaint asserts that HB2 violates federal law by discriminating on the basis of sex. The Department of Justice names three federal laws that HB2 directly violates: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination; Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education; and the Violence Against Women Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex and gender identity in programs receiving federal assistance. The Department has repeatedly cited Transgender Law Center’s 2015 case Lusardi v. McHugh as one of the key precedents making clear that transgender people have the right to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment from the court finding that complying with and enforcing HB2 violates those federal protections. It also seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent further violations of federal law.
The University of North Carolina Board of Governors is meeting tomorrow and is expected to issue a statement tomorrow. The Department of Justice stated that it remains committed to working with any agency receiving federal funding to develop a plan to ensure their compliance with federal law.
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, also spoke powerfully at the press conference announcing today’s action.
“There is nothing radical or even unusual about the notion that the word sex includes the concept of gender,” Gupta said. “Transgender people are discriminated against because their sex does not match what is assigned at birth. Bills like HB 2 misinterpret or make up facts about gender identity. Transgender men are men – they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women – they live, work and study as women. America protects the rights of all people to be who they are, to express their true selves and to live with dignity.”
The Attorney General also gave a direct message to the transgender community:
“Let me also speak directly to the transgender community itself. Some of you have lived freely for decades. Others of you are still wondering how you can possibly live the lives you were born to lead. But no matter how isolated or scared you may feel today, the Department of Justice and the entire Obama Administration wants you to know that we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward. Please know that history is on your side. This country was founded on a promise of equal rights for all, and we have always managed to move closer to that promise, little by little, one day at a time. It may not be easy – but we’ll get there together.”