U.S. Department of Justice officials notified North Carolina governor Pat McCrory today that HB2, the state’s discriminatory anti-LGBT law, violates the Civil Rights Act. The Justice Department’s letter says that HB2, which was passed in response to a local anti-discrimination ordinance in Charlotte and essentially banned municipalities from protecting the rights of LGBT Americans, violates both Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which ban discrimination based on sex.
In the letter, Valita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said, “The Department of Justice has determined that, as a result of compliance with and implementation of NC House Bill 2, both you and the state of NC are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 0f 1964.”
The provision of HB2 at issue is the one that has caused national controversy and led to the law’s labeling as the “bathroom bill”: the prohibition on transgender people using the restroom that matches their gender identity rather than their “biological” birth sex. According to the Justice Department’s letter:
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 the gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII
HB 2 is facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex because it treats transgender employees, whose gender identity does not match their biological sex, as defined by HB2, differently from similarly situated non transgender employee
There is ample precedent in federal courts to applying Title VII to transgender individuals based on sex and gender identity, but this is the first time that such a decision has been made regarding such a prominent state-level law, making it a momentous victory for the civil rights of the transgender and LGBT communities in the face of continued Republican bigotry in the highest levels of government.
The Justice Department has given North Carolina state officials until Monday to “confirm that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.” If state officials do not revoke the discriminatory law, the state will likely lose almost $1 billion in federal education funding.
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.