Legal Spotlight: North Carolina’s Bathroom Debate

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Stefani M. Butschle, Esq. Director of Human Resources and In-House Counsel

After a recent ordinance was passed in Charlotte, the North Carolina General Assembly called lawmakers back to Raleigh for a special session. This session was brought specifically to overturn this ordinance, which aimed to ban discrimination against LGBT individuals.  The most controversial provision allowed transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender with which they identify.

However, notably, the new law, Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (H.B. 2), has a far more encompassing impact: it not only prevents any local government from passing any anti-discrimination ordinances in regard to any class not specifically listed as a protected class per state law (gender/gender-identity and sexual orientation being excluded), but mandates that any individual in a public school or agency must use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate. This is the first instance in which the use of bathrooms has been tied to a person’s birth certificate in this country.

Proponents argued that this law was not an act of discrimination, but was a matter of public safety, citing the need to protect women and children’s privacy in bathrooms. The law, whose proposed text was only published and provided to lawmakers minutes before voting, has already been challenged as unconstitutional through a suit initiated by three private citizens in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina.

Most recently, Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is named in the lawsuit in his official capacity, has publicly denounced the law as a “national embarrassment” and has refused to defend the law or the state officials named within the suit.

Click here to read the legislative summary: http://www.ncleg.net/Applications/Dashboard/Chamber/Services/BillSummary.aspx?sSessionCode=2015E2&sBarcode=H2-SMTC-4%28e2%29-v-2

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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or assistance. For information regarding your specific responsibilities, you should contact your attorney.