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White House: North Carolina Won't Lose Federal Funds — Yet

Josh Earnest

The federal government will not withhold funds from North Carolina while the court battle over the state’s anti-LGBT law goes on, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said today.

“The administration will not take action to withhold funding while this enforcement process is playing out in the courts,” Earnest said at his daily press briefing, The Charlotte Observer reports.

The Department of Justice had sent letters to Gov. Pat McCrory and other North Carolina officials last week saying that House Bill 2 violates federal law, specifically Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Those laws ban discrimination based on sex, in employment and education respectively, which the Justice and Education Departments say includes discrimination based on gender identity.

North Carolina could lose billions of dollars in federal education and public safety funding because of the violation, but now this won’t happen until competing lawsuits play out. The state Monday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, seeking a judgment that the federal statutes do not cover gender identity. The same day, the federal government, via Attorney General Loretta Lynch, sued North Carolina, seeking to bar the state from enforcing HB 2.

The federal government’s suit specifically challenges HB 2’s provision barring transgender people from using the restrooms and locker rooms that comport with their gender identity, when those facilities are located in government buildings, including public schools and state universities. The law “stigmatizes and singles out transgender individuals seeking access to covered facilities, results in their isolation and exclusion, and perpetuates a sense that they are not worthy of equal treatment and respect,” the suit says.

State lawmakers passed and McCrory signed HB 2 all in one day, March 23, in order to prevent an LGBT-inclusive public accommodations ordinance from going into effect in Charlotte. In addition to the restroom provision, HB 2 nullifies all LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinances in the state and prevents cities and counties from enacting new ones. It also bars residents from filing discrimination suits in state court and keeps cities from setting a higher minimum wage than the state’s.

In the press briefing today, Earnest reiterated President Obama’s opposition to HB 2. “When it comes to fighting for justice and fairness, and fighting against discrimination, that’s something that the president is committed to,” Earnest said, according to the Observer. “Some people in North Carolina right now have been feeling like the state government, at least, is not sufficiently committed to ensuring equal treatment under the law.”

 

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