A controversial North Carolina law that prevents transgender people from using restrooms that align with their gender identity has come under fire from activists nationwide—and now it’s being challenged in court.
On Monday, three individuals and two LGBT advocacy groups filed a federal lawsuit against North Carolina, arguing that H.B. 2, a piece of legislation passed last week, destroys civil rights protections and is unconstitutional.
The suit, which was filed against North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and other government officials by a coalition including the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina, alleges, “By singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, H.B. 2 violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution.”
Critics say the law fuels the transgender “bathroom myth”—the idea that male sexual predators claiming to be female would seek to gain access to a restroom in order to assault women and children.
The suit goes on to allege that North Carolina’s “lawmakers made no attempt to cloak their actions in a veneer of neutrality, instead openly and virulently attacking transgender people, who were falsely portrayed as predatory and dangerous to others.”
Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina, told TakePart the new law creates a twofold problem.
“We’ve seen in other states, like Georgia and South Dakota, that legislators and executives of these states have reached the conclusion that H.B. 2 is not right. It puts LGBT people in danger and is problematic from a business perspective,” Sgro said.
H.B. 2 was introduced and passed so quickly, many legislators hardly had time to read it before last week’s vote, according to The New York Times. The bill was introduced early Wednesday morning and signed into law by McCrory late Wednesday night during a convening by Republican state legislators.
The legislation was a response to an ordinance enacted in February in Charlotte that extended protections against discrimination to LGBT North Carolinians. The city ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect April 1, would have, among other things, defended the right of transgender men and women to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify rather than the one they were assigned at birth.
“The ordinance in Charlotte is best practice,” said Sgro. “Many major and smaller cities across the country have passed similar laws.”
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is named as a defendant in the suit, released a video statement on Wednesday in which he argued, “North Carolina is better than this.... That North Carolina is making discrimination part of the law is shameful. It will not only cause real harm to families but to our economy as well."
Companies such as Google, Facebook, American Airlines, and Dow Chemical have publicly spoken out against the law. The NBA has threatened to reevaluate the location of the 2017 All-Star Game, which is currently scheduled to be held in Charlotte.
Dow is disappointed in the signing of NC #HB2. We will continue to call for a comprehensive federal framework to ensure fairness for all.–KK
— Dow Public Policy (@DowPolicy) March 24, 2016
Over the weekend, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee became the first political figure to take concrete action on behalf of a city government against the North Carolina law. Lee announced that all nonessential travel to North Carolina by city employees will be barred until the law is amended.
Members of the LGBT community, as well as those standing alongside them in solidarity, took to social media to voice their concerns about the law.
— phaylen (@phaylen) March 24, 2016
— ScottTurnerSchofield (@turnerschofield) March 28, 2016
— James P Sheffield (@JayShef) March 24, 2016
In addition to its prohibitions regarding restrooms, H.B. 2 disallows cities from enacting further regulations that offer protections to the statewide LGBT community.
McCrory released a statement on March 25 saying that Charlotte was overstepping its jurisdiction by attempting to pass a regulation that applied to the entire state rather than just the city. He also referred to Charlotte’s ordinance as a “radical breach of trust and security.”
I signed bipartisan legislation to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms.
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) March 24, 2016
Sgro said H.B. 2 represents the exact opposite of what the state should be working on.
“The North Carolina General Assembly should be debating adding nondiscrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation,” he said. “Our community is at real risk. A North Carolina survey showed 8 percent of trans people face physical violence, and there are similar numbers for gay and bisexual North Carolinians. Protections are needed.”