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Department of Justice Asks Federal Court to Block N.C. Law's Anti-Trans Provisions

Department of Justice Asks Federal Court to Block N.C. Law's Anti-Trans Provisions


"H.B. 2 is not merely a solution to a non-existent problem; it is state-sanctioned discrimination," writes the Justice Department. 

Attorneys for the Department of Justice filed a motion in federal district court late Tuesday seeking to prevent North Carolina officials from enforcing the anti-trans provisions of the state's controversial anti-LGBT law, known as House Bill 2.

Although the Justice Department has claimed, in a federal lawsuit announced in May, that HB 2 as a whole violates existing civil rights law, Tuesday's filing seeks to stop the state from implementing the portion of the law that requires transgender people to use public bathrooms, locker rooms, and other sex-segregated spaces that do not match their gender identity.

The filing seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the anti-trans section of the law, specifically, from being enforced while the DOJ's lawsuit against North Carolina proceeds. The motion names North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, the state's Department of Public Safety, and leaders of the University of North Carolina system as defendants, since the state-run school is also subject to the law (although administrators are unsure how to enforce it).

The motion asserts that HB 2 violates several pieces of federal law that prohibit discrimination based on sex, which the Obama administration and a growing number of federal courts have long interpreted to include gender identity. Tuesday's motion argues that the anti-trans provisions of HB 2 run afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 19674, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Violence Against Women Act, as it was reauthorized in 2013.

Along with the motion for a preliminary injunction, Justice Department attorneys filed an extensive memorandum of law supporting their motion. In that memorandum, the Department explains the absurdity of HB 2:

"As the record shows, transgender people in North Carolina have long
used bathrooms consistent with their gender identity in private facilities and, before H.B. 2, in public facilities, without precipitating criminal conduct or widespread complaints about the invasion of privacy.

H.B. 2 is not merely a solution to a non-existent problem; it is state-sanctioned discrimination that is inflicting immediate and significant harm on transgender individuals. That, along with the balance of equities and the public interest in preventing discrimination, support a preliminary injunction halting compliance with and implementation of H.B. 2."

Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were campaigning in North Carolina on Tuesday. Clinton made her first appearance with President Obama since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee, but neither made mention of the Justice department suit or the most recent filing. In an interview with the Raleigh News & Observer before his rally, Donald Trump said he was "going with the state" and suggesting that the decision should be left up to state leaders.

Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled for the Justice Department's motion, or for North Carolina's counter-suit, filed against the Obama administration just hours before U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the DOJ was launching a federal civil rights lawsuit against McCrory and North Carolina leadership.

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