Colman Domingo
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N.C. Gov. Already Enforcing HB 2 With Trespassing Laws

Pat McCrory

The governor of North Carolina says he will use trespassing laws to enforce the restroom provisions of House Bill 2, while officials with the state university system now say they won’t enforce the controversial law at all.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a candy factory Thursday, McCrory spoke about enforcement of the law, which among other things bars transgender people from using the restrooms, in government buildings, that correspond with their gender identity. Passed in a single, day-long special session March 23 to prevent an LGBT-inclusive public accommodations ordinance from taking effect in Charlotte, HB 2 came with no guidance for enforcement. Officials with police departments in major cities throughout the state have said they will not enforce the law. 

"We're using trespassing laws that we were using before House Bill 2, we're using that now," he told reporters, according to a video (watch below) posted online by North Carolina journalist Bryan Anderson and shared by Talking Points Memo. "But you know, it's just basic privacy rights and that's trespassing and we'll continue to do that just like we were doing long before the Charlotte ordinance. So nothing's really changed in that regard.”

It’s unclear if anyone has been charged with trespassing under HB 2. Various news outlets have contacted police departments around North Carolina, and police responses have indicated that some are confused about enforcement and others are making it a low priority. "We don’t have police officers sitting at public ,bathrooms all day long,” a spokesman for the Raleigh Police Department told Mother Jones.

And today, the University of North Carolina system filed papers in federal court saying it will not enforce the law. "I have no intent to exercise my authority to promulgate any guidelines or regulations that require transgender students to use the restrooms consistent with their biological sex,” UNC system president Margaret Spellings wrote in an affidavit. Spellings had earlier advised all of the system's 17 campuses to comply.

“The declaration came in a motion asking a federal court to halt civil legal proceedings against the university system while a higher court decides a separate case on transgender rights from Virginia,” the Associated Press reports. Students and employees have filed suit against the university system because of HB 2, which requires public schools like UNC to abide by the anti-LGBT provisions.

The case in Virginia involves a transgender male student who was denied access to the boys’ restroom at his school. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled last month that his civil rights had indeed been violated, but the full court has been asked to review the ruling. The Fourth Circuit holds jurisdiction over Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Maryland. 

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told the AP that Spellings’s request for a stay in the suit against the UNC system made sense, as the final decision in the Virginia case will likely provide guidance to other courts. "The district judges in North Carolina are probably not going to do anything other than what the Fourth Circuit says," he said.

Watch Anderson's question to Gov. McCrory in his tweet below. 

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