Hours before North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory announced a federal lawsuit against the Obama administration over the Department of Justice's determination that a new sweeping anti-LGBT law violates federal civil rights protections, a key sponsor of that law defended it in a tense interview on CNN.
The DOJ gave the state until Monday to respond to its conclusion that North Carolina's House Bill 2, which requires transgender people to use public bathrooms and locker rooms that do not match their gender identity, violates exising nondiscrimination protections as spelled out in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. These federal policies prohibit discrimination in employment and education, respectively, on the basis of race, national origin, and sex. Back in 2014, the Department of Education clarified in a memo that these protections also extend to gender identity, and the Department of Justice affirmed the same a year later.
Before the state revealed its response to the federal agency's order, a state lawmaker who helped draft the bill appeared on CNN to defend the anti-LGBT law. Republican Rep. Dan Bishop doubled down on his support, calling HB 2 a "very common sense and reasonable law."
"It's important to protect basic personal privacy rights of folks who would use public showers and bathrooms in North Carolina," Bishop told CNN's Chris Cuomo.
He further claimed that HB 2, which also struck down local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state, and barred residents from suing in state court for discrimination, is nonetheless "fully consistent with the civil rights law."
Bishop accurately predicted that McCrory would not comply with the federal government's request that the state stop enforcing HB 2. "Governor McCrory has taken an unbelievable pounding," Bishop told Cuomo. "He's been under siege, and he's been excellent throughout. I'm confident Governor McCrory will continue making excellent decisions."
This statement is remarkably similar to one the House representative made to 1110 AM WBT, a conservative talk radio station based out of Charlotte. Bishop told the station's Mark Garrison that as far he's concerned, HB 2 will stand. "I think the law is a good law," he said. It shouldn't be repealed. I'm not looking to do that."
Bishop further asserted that criticism of the bill is a "media-fueled ideological carpet bombing" and stated that the DOJ ruling is a "breathtaking assertion of executive power by the Obama administration."
"The issue is whether North Carolinians and people all over the nation are gonna acquiesce to being steamrolled by radical new social policy dreamed up by Obama administration bureaucrats," Bishop said. He further asked Garrison: "Can they, based on a bureaucrat's reinterpretation of settled law that hasn't been approved by any court, can they go around the nation and enforce this not only on state governments but on every private employer who has fifteen or more employees?"
There is no indication in the letters sent to North Carolina officials last week by the DOJ that the agency has any intention of auditing equal employment policies nationwide. Further, several federal courts have, indeed, ruled in favor of trans employees who were discriminated against because of their gender identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, another federal agency, in 2014 filed a pair of landmark lawsuits alleging that two employers broke the law when they fired employees who announced their intent to transition on-the-job.
Nevertheless, Bishop repeated well-worn conservative talking points claiming the law is about protecting the safety and privacy of women and children.
In February, Charlotte passed an ordinance that extended its existing nondiscrimination laws to transgender people. Bishop called that decision a "radical transgender proposal." Following that vote, Bishop told the Charlotte Observer, "A small group of far-out progressives should not presume to decide for us all that a cross-dresser's liberty to express his gender nonconformity trumps the right of women and girls to peace of mind."
But Democratic members of Congress representing North Carolina have warned that state leadership's defiant attitude may prove costly to North Carolina. U.S. House Reps. G.K. Butterfield, David E. Price, and Alma S. Adams wrote a letter urging the state to comply with the Obama administration by repealing HB 2.
"The broad and destructive provisions of HB 2 enables discrimination against North Carolinians based on their sexual identity, weakens employment protections across the state by preventing the right to sue in state court for wrongful termination, and prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances supported by their constituents, such as minimum wage increases," the members of Congress argued.
According to the Democratic lawmakers, HB 2 is "immoral, unjust, and contrary to American values" and would wreak further "economic devastation" on the state if it remains intact. The letter states that North Carolina stands to lose more than $2 billion in federal funding and $560 million in revenue over the next few years if the law remains in force.