WINSTON-SALEM North Carolina’s university system must allow two transgender students and a transgender employee to use bathrooms matching their gender identity, a U.S. judge ruled Friday in a partial victory for those fighting the state’s restroom law. The full case will be heard in a trial set for November. Bob Stephens, general counsel for the governor’s office, noted the limited scope of the ruling Friday and said in a statement that Gov. Pat McCrory would continue to defend the law.”This is not a final resolution of this case, and the governor will continue to defend North Carolina law,” said Stephens in the statement. Most transgender people in North Carolina, however, will still be bound by the law adopted in March that requires them to use bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate. The ACLU and the Lamda Legal Law Center said they will appeal the ruling to extend multi-stall bathroom access to all transgender individuals regardless of their biological sex.”We know the harmful effects of H.B. 2 are far reaching, and that is why we are seeking broader relief for the thousands of transgender people who call North Carolina home,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina.Bathroom access has become a flashpoint in the battle over transgender rights in the United States. The North Carolina law has sparked boycotts of the state by corporations, entertainers and the National Basketball Association, which pulled its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder said three plaintiffs challenging the measure were likely to succeed at trial on their claim that the law violates the 1972 Title IX Act, which prohibits sex-based discrimination by schools receiving federal funding. “The individual transgender plaintiffs have clearly shown that they will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,” he wrote, noting their assertions that single-occupant bathrooms were generally unavailable at the University of North Carolina. The judge said his order effectively returned all involved to the status quo before the law passed, “wherein public agencies accommodated the individual transgender plaintiffs on a case-by-case basis, rather than applying a blanket rule to all people in all facilities under all circumstances.” An estimated 0.6 percent of U.S. adults identify as transgender, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Debates about which public restroom facilities they and transgender children should use have divided courts, state legislatures and schools.”We think that we have strong arguments to invalidate all of the provisions of H.B. 2 that target the LGBT community in the state,” said Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina. Schroeder, an appointee of Republican former President George W. Bush, heard oral arguments for the injunction on Aug. 1 in Winston-Salem. Lawyers for McCrory and other Republican lawmakers who support the law said it offered common-sense protection of state residents’ privacy and safety, even though it included no specific language for enforcement. In April, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals became the first appellate court to rule that transgender students are protected under federal laws that bar sex-based discrimination. The court’s jurisdiction includes North Carolina. But the U.S. Supreme Court voted in August to stay the order, which would have allowed a transgender boy to use the boys’ restroom at his Virginia high school, until the high court considers the subject more fully. The issue took the national spotlight when the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance this February requiring city businesses and government buildings to open all restrooms and locker rooms to either biological sex, allowing transgender individuals to legally use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity. H.B. 2 was passed by the state legislature the next month in response and requires all government buildings, including schools, maintain separate facilities for male and females, for use according to the sex listed on the individual’s birth certificate. It also forbade municipalities from passing ordinances that contradict the state law.North Carolina university system spokeswoman Joni Worthington said in a statement on Friday, “As President Spellings has emphasized all along, the University has been caught in the middle of a conflict that we did not create between state law and federal guidance. We welcome resolution of these issues by the court so that we can focus all of our efforts on our primary mission educating students.”Reuters news service contributed to this report.
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