North Carolina and DOJ Trade Lawsuits Over Transgender Bathroom Access Law

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on May 09, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

North Carolina's transgender bathroom law -- the one barring people from using bathrooms with gender designations different from those on their birth certificates -- is patently discriminatory. About a week after it passed, the state's own attorney general said he wouldn't defend the law in court, and last week the U.S. Department of Justice warned the governor that the law violates the Civil Rights Act.

But Governor Pat McCrory and Frank Perry, head of North Carolina's Department of Public Safety (DPS), doubled down on the law, and filed a lawsuit against the DOJ, accusing the federal government of "baseless and blatant overreach." (One wonders whether the irony of that charge was lost on the governor or simply ignored.) Hours later, the DOJ filed its own lawsuit, saying the state and DPS "are discriminating against transgender individuals in violation of federal law." The only question now is how long it will take a court to side in the DOJ's favor.

Civil Rights Protections

McCrory's lawsuit accuses U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and the DOJ's top civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta of a "radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and in the warning letter to McCrory, Gupta explained:

"Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition, or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII."

Gender and Title VII

While McCrory may contend the DOJ's enforcement is "an attempt to unilaterally rewrite long-established federal civil rights laws in a manner that is wholly inconsistent with the intent of Congress and disregards decades of statutory interpretation by the Courts," the federal government has been remarkably consistent on transgender protections under Title VII.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission declared that transgender workers were a protected class in 2012 and clarified last year that sexual orientation discrimination was already illegal under Title VII, and Obama barred any LGBT discrimination by federal contractors. Considering the administration's outspoken stance against transgender discrimination the fact that the federal government sets the floor for civil rights protections, it doesn't look good for the governor's lawsuit.

You can check out the full filing for yourself below:

PATRICK L. MCCRORY, Governor of the State of North Carolina, v. United States Department of Justice, et al.... by FindLaw

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