Groups assail UNC system for following discrimination law

Posted April 7
Updated April 8

— University of North Carolina President Margaret Spellings told chancellors of the 17-campus system this week that they need to abide by a new state law requiring people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological gender but said no anti-discrimination policies need to be changed.

State lawmakers passed the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, commonly referred to as House Bill 2 or HB2, two weeks ago. In addition to the bathroom provision, which targets transgender people, the bill creates a statewide employment and public accommodations discrimination policy that excludes protections for LGBT people and blocks cities and counties from extending protections to them.

The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality NC, who have challenged the law in court on behalf of a UNC-Chapel Hill worker, a UNC-Greensboro student and a North Carolina Central University law professor, criticized Spellings' stance on Thursday.

"It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety and wellbeing of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender," the groups said in a joint statement. "By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people, it also violates federal law."

HB2 spells out that the UNC system and the state Community College System are among the public agencies that must comply with the bathroom provision, so Spellings said campuses must label all multiple-occupancy bathrooms for single-sex use.

"Institutions may provide accommodations such as single-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities and may designate those facilities as gender-neutral," Spellings wrote in her April 5 memo, adding that, "The Act does not contain provisions concerning enforcement of the bathroom and changing facility requirements."

She also noted in the memo that the law "does not require University institutions to change their nondiscrimination policies, and those policies should remain in effect."

UNC-Chapel Hill's policy includes protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although HB2 allows agencies such as the university system to set policies for their own employees that exceed those in the state law, it's unclear whether students would be included in that loophole.

"Constituent institutions must continue to operate in accordance with their nondiscrimination policies and must take prompt and appropriate action to prevent and address any instances of harassment and discrimination in violation of University policies," Spellings wrote.

Durham joins list of HB2 opponents

The Durham City Council became the latest group to publicly oppose the new law, unanimously adopting a resolution Thursday reiterating the city's support of diversity.

"It's important to reaffirm the value and dignity of everyone who lives in Durham, particularly LGBT family members here in Durham," said Councilman Charlie Reece, who introduced the resolution.

Luke Hirst thanked the council members for their support but asked them to go further and add more public gender-neutral restrooms in City Hall.

"I made sure to use the bathroom at my workplace because, last time I checked, there were at least eight bathrooms here at City Hall, and not one is one I feel safe and comfortable using," Hirst said.

But Rose Sanchez spoke against Durham's resolution and in favor of HB2.

"I do support the governor. I believe many other citizens do too despite the resolution that has been proposed today," Sanchez said.

Several other cities statewide, including Chapel Hill and Carrboro, have adopted similar resolutions in the past two weeks, and scores of businesses have called for the General Assembly to repeal the measure when lawmakers reconvene April 25.

PayPal on Tuesday cited HB2 for its decision to cancel plans to open a $3.5 million operations center in Charlotte, which would have created 400 jobs.

Bill Kalkhof, chairman of the Durham Convention Authority Board, said a downtown hotel has lost $40,000 in business scheduled for October because of the law. He declined to name the hotel.

"We need to get in front of this as a community so that those conversations are not negative and that people understand, in Durham, we are open and welcoming to any group that wants to do business here," Kalkhof said. "I would hope this groundswell that’s occurring, that this groundswell will hopefully convince our state legislature when they reconvene shortly to go back and take a second look at the legislation."


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • William James Apr 11, 11:12 a.m.
    user avatar

    How exactly does the Governor propose that Police enforce this new law? Confront gender neutral or suspected incorrect sex people entering public rest rooms and force them to prove their sex. And, what do they plan to do if the person refuses to produce an ID, arrest them, if so for what? And, what if the officer is wrong, the person is the correct sex, how could any confrontation or arrest not be considered harassment and/or assault?

  • Jacob Smirnov Apr 8, 6:23 p.m.
    user avatar

    Form ImageDon't feed the TROLL!

  • Shaun Lee Apr 8, 6:17 p.m.
    user avatar

    Thank you Durham!

  • Fanny Chmelar Apr 8, 12:52 p.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    "The Tipping Point", by Malcolm Gladwell
    "The Great Transformation" by Karl Polanyi

    This is nothing new.

  • Gran Queso Apr 8, 11:27 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I never said that. And just like your assumption, it explains your emotional response to my statement. It is fair to say and as you have acknowledged, I use logic as oppose to your response which has none but feelings. Nice try, sir!

  • Amy Whaley Apr 8, 11:02 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Common sense seems to have evaded most. I believe this whole mess was created because it is an election year.

  • Amy Whaley Apr 8, 10:47 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Thank you Heather. When people falsely identify their bodies, it can lead to their deaths. We do not sit by and allow an anorexic, who has a false image of their body, starve themselves to death without trying to intervene and help. Why do we ignore other's that have a false image of their body?

  • Shaun Lee Apr 8, 10:10 a.m.
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Exactly! The GOP clown car doesn't have enough gas to make it to the White House. Hillary or Bernie will then be able to swing the Supreme Court heavily to the left for generations. Then the GOP can follow the laws that are passed as they advise everyone else to do.

  • Steven Reynolds Apr 8, 9:49 a.m.
    user avatar

    It is unfortunate this law has passed. But the law is the law, whether we agree with it or not, and we must adhere to it. The best way to change the law is at the ballot box in November.

  • Steve Clark Apr 8, 9:20 a.m.
    user avatar

    Is this actually a story? "Attention all, the UNC system has announced they will obey a law." Duh...

    It is unfortunate that this came up during an election year, thus giving liberals something to rally around. I don't recall all this noise when Houston did the same thing... or any number of states that said "if you have boy parts, you must use the boys locker room". Doesn't it even sound funny when you say it out loud? We had to pass a law that said boy parts go in boys room.... BECAUSE... Charlotte law said "boy parts can use the girls locker room, as long as they Say they 'identify' as a girl at that time". Doesn't anyone see what a Huge mess the original Charlotte Ordinance created?!!