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North Carolina responds to DOJ with a lawsuit over “Bathroom Bill”

bathroom bill

North Carolina is in hot water once again, and this time there are two separate lawsuits involved: one filed by the state of North Carolina and one by the DOJ. How will this turn out?

Local showdown goes national

The fight for transgender rights has just begun, but in North Carolina, the epicenter of controversy, things seem to be getting even more heated. Several companies have rallied against North Carolina’s new law, termed the “bathroom bill,” and refused to bring their business to the state because they felt North Carolina’s new policy violated a basic human right. PayPal and Deutsche Bank have publicly protested the bill by suspending expansion plans into the state, directly influencing the business ecosystem.

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Of course there have been other businesses, entertainers, and activists that have refused to do business with North Carolina because they do not agree with their new law.

Dueling lawsuits have been filed

Now, North Carolina is making headlines for a different reason: Both North Carolina and the Justice Department have filed dueling lawsuits over the state’s “bathroom bill.” The battle begins over the current law which bans transgender people from using bathrooms that don’t match the gender on their birth certificates.

These dueling complaints were filed mere hours apart according to The Washington Post. North Carolina continues to contend that its law does not discriminate against transgender people or treat transgender employees differently than non-transgender employees; the Justice Department disagrees.

The Justice Department’s civil right’s office states the measure is discriminatory and violates civil rights.

The DOJ’s position:

Attorney General, Loretta Lynch stated during a news conference, that “this action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”

Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division stated Monday, that the lawsuit “speaks to all of us who have ever been made to feel inferior — like somehow we just don’t belong in our community, like somehow we just don’t fit in.” She added, “Let me reassure every transgender individual, right here in America, that you belong just as you are.”

North Carolina has until Monday to decide their course of action. Currently, North Carolina receives federal education funding every year in excess of $4 billion; this money can be withheld because the “bathroom law” violates civil rights. The government has withheld funding before over civil rights issues (desegregation for one) so North Carolina will want to make their decision in a timely manner to avoid some pretty hefty repercussions from the government.

North Carolina’s position:

North Carolina Governor, Pat McCrory, has asked the Justice Department for an extension to the “unrealistic” Monday deadline, but was turned down unless he stated that the law was discriminatory.

To this, Gov. McCrory stated, “I’m not going to publicly announce that something discriminates, which is agreeing with the letter [from the DOJ], because we’re really talking about a letter in which they’re trying to define gender identity. And there is not clear identification or definition of gender identity. It’s the federal government being a bully.”

McCrory said Monday that the Justice Department had asked North Carolina officials to “set aside their constitutional duty and refuse to follow or enforce our state law.” As he did last week after receiving the letter, he said that this has broad implications, stating: “This is not just a North Carolina issue. This is now a national issue.” Thus the lawsuit filed the same day as the DOJ’s.

What Americans think

More than 50 percent of people recently polled by CNN stated they opposed laws (like North Carolina’s) that require transgender individuals to use facilities that do not match their gender identity, while 38 percent support such laws. The CNN poll was conducted prior to the Justice Department’s finding that North Carolina’s law violates civil rights.

At the time of publication, it is not clear what path North Carolina will take, but one thing is clear: Something will need to change, on one side or the other.

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