If a recent federal court ruling overrides North Carolina's recently passed anti-LGBT bill, Gov. Pat McCrory claims he won't stand in the way.
On Tuesday, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District ruled--in a 2-1 decision--in favor of Gavin Grimm, a trans student who sued his Virginia high school after administrators blocked him from using the men's restroom. The decision will also affect Maryland, West Virginia and South Carolina, the other states in the Fourth District.
As The Advocate previously reported, the ruling "will have far-reaching effects on the debate over which bathrooms and locker rooms transgender people can use." At the center of that discussion is North Carolina's House Bill 2, a controversial anti-LGBT bill signed into law on March 23. While striking down local nondiscrimination ordinances across the state, the bill also requires trans people to use public restrooms and locker rooms that do not correspond with their gender identity.
McCrory, who has vocally supported HB 2 in the face of widespread criticism from the business community, told reporters on Tuesday that he would defer to the federal court's judgment. "As governor, I will uphold my oath of office to respect these court rulings and make sure these court rulings are abided to because I'm sworn to oath to do just that, and I have a tradition of doing just that," he said.
When it comes to implementing the decision, the governor urged a wait-and-see approach. "It is my understanding that this ruling will most likely be immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court," McCrory said. In the interim, he claimed that would be meeting with his team of legal advisors to discuss how this decision impacts the state.
McCrory, however, saved criticism for the federal government's policy on Title IX. In 2014, the Obama administration issued a memo clarifying its policy on the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and national origin in public education, arguing that the provision extended to trans students. On Tuesday, the federal court ruled that the administration's stance on Title IX overrides discriminatory policies set by local schools, as was the case in Virginia.
"I think that's bad precedent and I don't think it's the traditional way we do things," McCrory claimed. "The way I think we should have done them is to allow the high schools to make the appropriate arrangements for those students who have unique circumstances. But this is the federal government... forcing something, brand new standards that we've never seen before."
For advocacy groups working in North Carolina, however, the Fourth District court ruling on Title IX was a moment of vindication. "We argued from the moment that House Bill 2 was introduced that it violated Title IX, so today went a long way toward validating that argument," Chris Brook, who serves as legal director for the North Carolina ACLU, told Goldsboro TV station WNCN. "We feel that the decision that was reached today is exceptionally sound in its reasoning, and what it's saying is that you can't discriminate against transgender students."
Greg Wallace, a professor at Campbell Law School, told WNCN that the ruling isn't the "slam dunk" many might believe. As Wallace told the news channel, "the lawsuit the ACLU filed more broadly challenges the law as being unconstitutional, which the Fourth Circuit judges did not address."
Currently, the ACLU, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina are suing to strike down HB 2. In a statement, Chase Strangio, the Staff Attorney for the ACLU's HIV/AIDS project, wrote that "the entire LGBT community... is harmed by this regressive and discriminatory law."