HB2 spawns more legal action

Posted May 11, 2016 1:06 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2016 1:48 p.m. EDT

House Bill 2 (HB2)

— One day after the state and federal governments sued each other over House Bill 2, a nonprofit representing unidentified North Carolina public school students and parents filed a court action Tuesday seeking to prevent federal education funds to the state from being withheld because of the controversial state law.

North Carolinians for Privacy wants a judge to declare that the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice cannot unilaterally determine that sex discrimination prohibitions in federal civil rights laws cover transgender people.

The Justice Department on Monday sued the state and the University of North Carolina system, alleging that House Bill 2 violates the civil rights of transgender state workers and students because it requires them to use the public bathroom that matches their birth gender instead of the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The legal fight puts an estimated $4.5 billion in federal funding to North Carolina at risk, including $1.4 billion to the UNC system.

"The administration shouldn’t condition the ability of women to receive an education on their willingness to shower with members of the opposite sex," Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing the families, said in a statement. "The agencies must stop using falsehoods about what federal law requires to threaten student access to educational opportunities and financial assistance."

UNC officials maintain that their campus nondiscrimination policies remain in effect and that they don't discriminate against anyone, including transgender students. They said they are trying to walk a fine line to abide by both House Bill 2 and federal laws.

Democratic lawmakers have filed a bill that would repeal House Bill 2 and a second bill that would extend nondiscrimination protections to gay and transgender people in the state.

Since House Bill 2's passage, some companies have called off planned expansions in North Carolina, conventions have been moved out of state and performers have canceled concerts. The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law reported Wednesday that the law could cost the state $5 billion a year in lost federal funding, business investment and tourism, litigation costs and the health care, worker productivity and recruitment and retention costs associated with discrimination on the job and at school.