Ef­fects of ‘bath­room bill’ linger

Law­suit in North Carolina re­news le­gal bat­tle over LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - BY JONATHAN DREW

The law that re­placed North Carolina’s no­to­ri­ous “bath­room bill” sports a new look but main­tains LGBT dis­crim­i­na­tion and pre­vents trans­gen­der peo­ple from us­ing re­strooms match­ing their gen­der iden­tity, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit Fri­day.

The law­suit re­news a high­pro­file le­gal bat­tle that has thrust North Carolina into the cen­tre of the na­tional de­bate over LGBT rights. The state took the “bath­room bill” off the books in late March af­ter a year­long back­lash that hurt North Carolina’s rep­u­ta­tion and caused busi­nesses and sports leagues to back out of lu­cra­tive events and projects.

But lawyers from the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and Lambda Le­gal said the re­place­ment law, known as H.B. 142, con­tin­ues the harms of its pre­de­ces­sor.

“Leg­is­la­tors were forced to re­write the law,” ACLU lawyer Chris Brook told re­porters Fri­day. “But make no mis­take ... H.B. 142 is a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing crafted to keep dis­crim­i­na­tion in­tact but sport­ing a new look.”

Made­line Goss, a 41-year-old trans­gen­der woman from Raleigh, said she fears for her safety un­der the cur­rent law: “There’s so much grey area that it cre­ates this con­fu­sion.”

The com­pro­mise ear­lier this year be­tween Repub­li­can leg­isla­tive lead­ers and Democrats led by Gov. Roy Cooper elim­i­nated the “bath­room bill” re­quire­ment that trans­gen­der peo­ple use re­strooms in many pub­lic build­ings cor­re­spond­ing to the sex on their birth cer­tifi­cates.

But the new law makes clear that that only the Gen­eral As­sem­bly - not lo­cal gov­ern­ment or school of­fi­cials - can make rules for pub­lic re­strooms from now on. Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are also pro­hib­ited from en­act­ing new nondis­crim­i­na­tion or­di­nances for work­places, ho­tels and restau­rants un­til De­cem­ber 2020.

“The vac­uum pur­pose­fully cre­ated by H.B. 142 in ef­fect main­tains the ban of (the pre­vi­ous law) and en­cour­ages dis­crim­i­na­tion by both gov­ern­ment and pri­vate en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als,” the law­suit said. “The law of­fers no guid­ance to any­one ex­cept by im­pli­ca­tion and makes it im­pos­si­ble for a rea­son­able per­son who is trans­gen­der to know which re­stroom they can legally use.”

The am­bi­gu­ity is com­pounded by state­ments from Repub­li­can law­mak­ers that the new law would meet the same goals as the “bath­room bill,” ac­cord­ing to the law­suit. It cites a state­ment from House Speaker Tim Moore that the re­place­ment law en­sures that “per­sons of the op­po­site sex can­not go into des­ig­nated mul­ti­oc­cu­pancy re­strooms” and could face crim­i­nal tres­pass­ing charges.

A spokesman for Moore de­clined com­ment Fri­day.

The law­suit ar­gues that the law vi­o­lates con­sti­tu­tional due process and equal pro­tec­tion rights, as well as fed­eral laws against dis­crim­i­na­tion in work­places and schools.

The fil­ing is a re­vamped ver­sion of an ex­ist­ing law­suit that chal­lenged the orig­i­nal “bath­room bill” in fed­eral court. Most of the same par­ties re­main from the pre­vi­ous com­plaint, with the ad­di­tion of two new plain­tiffs. Cooper is also named as a de­fen­dant.

A spokesman for Cooper, Ford Porter, said in an email Fri­day: “The gover­nor’s ul­ti­mate goal is statewide LGBT pro­tec­tions, and he is go­ing to con­tinue work­ing to­ward that.”

Since H.B. 142 went into ef­fect ear­lier this year, sports leagues in­clud­ing the NBA, ACC and NCAA have said they would hold cham­pi­onship events in North Carolina again. The an­nounce­ments of large busi­ness projects such as a 1,200-job ex­pan­sion by Credit Suisse are a fur­ther in­di­ca­tion that the state is re­pair­ing its im­age.

JONATHAN DREW/AP PHOTO

Made­line Goss is a plain­tiff in a new law­suit over LGBT rights in North Carolina. The state took the “bath­room bill” off the books in late March af­ter a year­long back­lash that hurt the state’s rep­u­ta­tion and caused busi­nesses and sports leagues to back out of lu­cra­tive events and projects.

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