The United States and North Carolina tangled over transgender rights on Monday, with the Justice Department filing a civil rights lawsuit over the state’s so-called bathroom bill and state officials defiantly filing suits against the federal directive to stop the implementation of the controversial legislation.
Also, a major player in North Carolina – the state’s public university system – defied the governor and legislature and told the Justice Department on Monday it intends to act “in compliance with federal law” as it relates to House Bill 2, known as HB2.
The Justice Department seeks declaratory relief and threatens to curtail federal funding to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina.
With hundreds of millions of dollars in funding at stake, UNC System President Margaret Spellings said longstanding policy prohibits university personnel from discriminating on the basis of, among other things, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, announcing the U.S. legal action to reporters on Monday, cast the bathroom bill issue as the latest civil rights struggle of the era.
“It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains, and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference. We’ve moved beyond those dark days,” Lynch said.
The act bans people from using public bathrooms that do not correspond with their biological sex. Since its passage in March, North Carolina has become a national battleground on the issue of transgender rights. It has drawn a flurry of condemnation from civil liberties groups, LGBT advocates and major businesses. It has also won praise from groups like the Family Research Council.
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