U.S. judge to weigh halt to North Carolina bathroom law

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Gov. Pat McCrory speaks in Edgecombe County on July 19.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A U.S. judge will hear arguments Monday to stop North Carolina from enforcing a state law requiring that people use the bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that correspond with the gender listed on their birth certificate.
The state in March became the first in the country to restrict access to publicly operated, single-sex restrooms and changing facilities to the gender on a birth certificate rather than the gender with which someone identifies.
The move fueled a national debate about bathrooms and transgender rights and made North Carolina a target for boycotts by companies, musicians and the National Basketball Association, which pulled its 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte.
Critics of the measure, known as House Bill 2 or H.B. 2, will argue to U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder in Winston-Salem that it is stigmatizing and leaves transgender people vulnerable to harassment and violence.
“We hope that this discriminatory law’s days are numbered,” advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal said in a statement ahead of the hearing, where they will seek a preliminary injunction.
Lawyers for Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who signed the law and now is a defendant in the ACLU’s lawsuit, said H.B. 2 should stay in effect while the case proceeds. A trial is set to begin on Nov. 14.
“Any harm to plaintiffs due to lack of access to restrooms designated for the opposite sex certainly cannot outweigh the privacy and safety risks presented to the public,” McCrory’s lawyers said in a court filing opposing an injunction.
The governor’s office did not comment ahead of the hearing, but his campaign released an 80-second ad Monday claiming his opponent in the gubernatorial race, Attorney General Roy Cooper, has rooted for North Carolina to fail and blocked bipartisan efforts to make changes to H.B. 2.
North Carolina’s Republican-led legislature passed H.B. 2 during a one-day special session called after Charlotte adopted a nondiscrimination ordinance allowing transgender people to use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.
The state law blocks such access in government-owned bathrooms but permits private businesses to set their own policies.
Bathrooms on the University of North Carolina’s 17 campuses are affected by the law. UNC President Margaret Spellings said she was eager for a resolution to the suit, which also named the university system as a defendant.
“As I have said all along, the University is caught in the middle of an apparent conflict between state law (H.B. 2) and federal guidance that the University did not create,” she said in a statement.