ACLU files another action against NC over bathroom access

Interest groups who launched the HB2 fight last year have expanded the original suit to include the laws replacement and Governor Roy Cooper.

Madeline Gray—North State Journal
Plaintiff Joaquin Carcano

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Although the controversial House Bill 2 has been repealed, another lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal last week claims that N.C. lawmakers are still discriminating against transgender people despite replacing a measure that restricted access to bathrooms in state-run buildings to those with the corresponding biological sex, rather than their gender identity. The groups spearheaded last year’s legal action over the measure that drew national attention.The groups’ new federal court action expands the original challenge to H.B. 2, Carcaño v. McCrory filed last year, and is now known as Carcaño v. Cooper. It also adds two more LGBT North Carolinians as plaintiffs who say they were harmed by the laws. The expanded lawsuit seeks damages for what they say was harm inflicted by both H.B. 2 and its replacement, House Bill 142.The amended suit filed on Friday attempts to thrust the state back into the center of a national debate over government regulations, equality, privacy and religious freedom after H.B. 142, passed in March, helped bring back some business and sporting events pulled from the state in protest of H.B. 2, the so-called bathroom bill. It repealed H.B. 2 and directed that local governments could not institute their own anti-discrimination policies regarding private employment or public access to multiple occupancy facilities unless it is approved by the General Assembly. It also bans cities in the state from passing their own anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people until 2020.It passed the legislature with the support of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce, the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association and was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper March 30, 2017.Even with the national media attention on travel boycotts and corporate efforts to pressure the state, the N.C. Department of Commerce announced last week that N.C. enjoyed a record 2016 in tourism spending: 50 million visitors to the state spent $22.9 billion, a 5 percent jump over previous years. The Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau also announced last week that Wake County broke records in visitors and tourism spending in 2016 despite the controversy surrounding H.B. 2.According to the ACLU and Lambda Legal in their amended lawsuit, the replacement law still lacks clarity and while it rescinded H.B. 2, it eliminated local governments’ authority to institute their own anti-discrimination policies.”After publicly vilifying transgender people for more than a year, legislators can’t just abandon transgender people to fend for themselves in the toxic environment of fear and animosity that the legislature itself created,” said Tara Borelli, counsel with Lambda Legal. “H.B. 142 doubles down on many of the worst harms of H.B. 2 and leaves transgender people in a legal limbo where they remain uniquely vulnerable to discrimination.”However, according to Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, the suit undermines women and defies common sense.”The ACLU and the transgender people they represent won’t stop until they force little girls to shower with grown men, share bathrooms and indulge their fantasy,” said Fitzgerald in a statement. “We’ve already seen what this leads to in other states and in Target, where bathroom policies like this facilitate peeping and require women and girls to ‘just get over it’ when it comes to men in their bathrooms and showers. This is insanity.”Cooper, a Democrat who signed the new law, is now named as a defendant in the lawsuit, replacing former Republican Gov. Pat McCrory. Cooper has called the replacement law imperfect but necessary to help repair North Carolina’s damaged reputation.”The governor’s ultimate goal is statewide LGBT protections, and he is going to continue working toward that,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement on Friday.