US Department of Justice: House Bill 2 Violates Civil Rights Law

North Carolina has received the strongest condemnation yet of the controversial anti-LGBT legislation signed into law earlier this year through a letter from the United States Department of Justice.

The notice was sent to Governor Pat McCrory on Wednesday.

The letter says House Bill 2 violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, the letter says, “the State is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees and both you, in your official capacity, and the State are engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by transgender employees of public agencies.”

The letter says that HB2 is “facially discriminatory against transgender employees” by forcing them to use the bathroom that matches their biological sex rather than their gender identity.

Governor McCrory has until close of business of May 9, according to the letter, to alert the Department of Justice as to how the state will “remedy these violations” by confirming that the state “will not comply with or implement H.B. 2.”

The correspondence to the governor says that a letter was also sent to the state Department of Public Safety and the UNC System notifying the agencies they were in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as well as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. The Title IX violation puts billions of dollars of federal funding at risk for North Carolina.

Governor McCrory released a statement just before seven o’clock on Monday night saying the DOJ claim now puts the privacy of North Carolinians “in jeopardy.” The full statement from the governor is below:

“A claim by the Obama administration charges that one part of House Bill 2, which requires state employees in public government buildings and students in our universities to use a restroom, locker room and shower facility that match their biological sex, is now in violation of federal law. The Obama administration has not only staked out its position for North Carolina, but for all states, universities and most employers in the U.S.

The right and expectation of privacy in one of the most private areas of our personal lives is now in jeopardy. We will be reviewing to determine the next steps.”

UNC System President Margaret Spellings released a statement confirming the University System had received the letter from the DOJ:

“We were notified this afternoon that the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice has determined the UNC system is in violation of federal nondiscrimination law as it relates to the NC Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, commonly known as HB2. We take this determination seriously and will be conferring with the Governor’s Office, legislative leaders, and counsel about next steps and will respond to the Department by its May 9 deadline.”

The national American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal, which are suing the state over HB2 released the following statement after the letter to the governor was made public:

“It is now clearer than ever that this discriminatory law violates civil rights protections and jeopardizes billions of dollars in federal funds for North Carolina. Governor McCrory and the legislators who forced through HB 2 in a single day were warned about these dire consequences, but they ignored the law and the North Carolinians it would harm and passed the bill anyway. The only way to reverse the ongoing damage HB 2 is causing to North Carolina’s people, economy, and reputation is a full repeal.”

This story will be updated as more information is made available

Chancellor Carol Folt and Local Government Leadership Discuss Impact of HB2

As legislators travelled to Raleigh for the beginning of the legislative session on Monday, groups gathered both opposing and supporting House Bill 2. Many local governments, including all entities in Orange County, have passed resolutions calling for the repeal of the law that bars transgender individuals from using the bathroom of their gender identity and nullifies local nondiscrimination ordinances, among other things.

Speaking at the WCHL Community Forum on Tuesday, Earl McKee – chair of the Orange County Board of Commissioners – said HB2 flies in the face of Orange County values.

“Orange County has been in the forefront of inclusiveness and the forefront of ensuring that everyone is treated equally and treated fairly,” McKee said. “And HB2 just tramples all over that whole ideal.”

Mayor Pam Hemminger said that the desire for everyone to feel welcome in Chapel Hill is one of the things that she loves most about the community.

“We care,” Hemminger said. “We want everyone to be treated equitably. We cannot believe the state passed this horrific bill. It makes no sense to us because we care, because we want to be inclusive.”

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt reiterated her opposition to the bill while adding the university is still working to understand what it will ultimately have to do to comply with the law.

“The faculty, actually several weeks ago, passed a resolution similar to the ones you’ve seen from the town, and I’ve also said myself that I didn’t agree with it,” Folt said. “But we have to comply with the law.”

Folt said that part of that compliance with the law would include working to ensure that everyone would be accommodated at UNC by auditing the facilities on campus and possibly adding new facilities as needed over the summer.

Folt added that the bill has a “chilling effect” on the economic impact the university can have on the state through company spin-offs and attracting the best and brightest faculty and students.

Adding on to the “chilling” impact the bill has had, Hillsborough Mayor Tom Stevens said he was part of a recruiting pitch about two weeks before HB2 was passed where a conference was considering coming to Orange County. Stevens said, even before HB2, the conference wanted to be sure that the area would be welcoming to all in the conference.

“I don’t think we would have had that conversation if HB2 had happened two weeks earlier,” Stevens said because the conference would not have considered Orange County. “But we got the conference; they’re still with us. This is what we’re in about opposing this law and yet working within it to make sure that everyone feels welcome here.”

McKee said one of his fears regarding HB2 was the lost economic impact and tourism to the area that will simply no longer consider North Carolina as a destination.

“It’s a quiet loss,” McKee said, “but it’s a real loss.”

Carrboro has been leading the fight against HB2. The town was the first municipality to pass a resolution opposing the law. Mayor Lydia Lavelle said the discussion at the forum affirmed the inclusive nature of Orange County.

“It’s a great community when you’re the only gay person at the table and you haven’t had to talk about how we’re inclusive of everyone.”

Local Rep Files Bill to Repeal HB2

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly are migrating to Raleigh on Monday for the convening of the legislative short session, although the legislature has been in the national spotlight over the last month after a special session was called to pass House Bill 2.

Local representative from House District 50 Graig Meyer was one of a group of lawmakers who filed a bill on Monday asking for a full repeal of HB2.

“There are at least two other Democratic members in the House who are working on other versions of bills to either repeal or amend House Bill 2,” Meyer told WCHL on Friday. “So there might be a few plans out there on the Democratic side.

“What I’m most curious about is whether any Republicans will introduce any type of bill or even just amendment to change any pieces of the law at all. That’s really where the action will happen is if they open that door.”

Meyer also reiterated a point he has previously made on WCHL, saying that he expects a large teacher pay increase to be put out during the session ahead of the election cycle in November.

“I believe that the Republican leadership will try to give a pay package for teachers that they’ll be able to use as a campaign tool,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he didn’t know exactly what to expect from that pay plan.

“My fear is that they’ll do something that appears to be a very important step forward for teachers, and there will be a lot of us who want to do anything we can for teachers,” Meyer said. “But I also believe that most teachers and most people in the public will recognize that anything they do as an election-year push will be too little too late.”

Meyer said he expects to see several long-serving Republicans who are retiring after this session to attempt to push through pieces of legislation that they have had on their “to-do list.”

Listen to Meyer’s conversation with WCHL’s Blake Hodge about what he is expecting in the short session.

North Carolina Congressional Democrats Call for Repeal of HB2

The North Carolina Congressional Democratic delegation has joined local governments across the state in calling for the repeal of North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2.

The three Democratic representatives in the United States Congress from North Carolina sent a letter to Governor Pat McCrory and Republican leadership on Thursday.

The representatives – Alma Adams (NC – 13), G.K. Butterfield (NC – 01) and David Price (NC – 04) – pointed to the potential for North Carolina to lose more than $4 billion in Title IX funding due to the legislation as one reason for its repeal.

The letter also says, in part, that the law should be repealed for the message it sends to the LGBT community.

“This sweeping law, adopted with no hearings and minimal deliberation, makes clear to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals that the State of North Carolina considers them second-class citizens by excluding them from state and local nondiscrimination ordinances.”

The law went into effect after a special session of the General Assembly was called on March 23. The legislature is scheduled to go back to Raleigh for the legislative short session on Monday. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a Wednesday press conference previewing the session that he did not anticipate the bill being repealed.

Three Plaintiffs Join HB2 Lawsuit

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has announced that three new plaintiffs have joined the lawsuit that is currently challenging House Bill 2.

A release says that a transgender high school student and a married lesbian couple have joined the lawsuit being brought by the ACLU of North Carolina, ACLU and Lambda Legal, along with counsel from the firm of Jenner & Block.

The lawsuit claims that the controversial legislation is unconstitutional and puts North Carolina in jeopardy of losing more than $4 billion in federal Title IX funding because the law forces transgender individuals to use the bathroom and changing facility in public venues that match their birth certificate rather than their gender identity.

A release says a 17-year-old transgender female, who is a junior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School in Winston – Salem, along with a married lesbian couple who live in Charlotte have joined the lawsuit.

The ACLU of North Carolina says the teenage student stays in the girl’s dorm and was using the girl’s restroom by her sophomore year, but now she will be forced to use the boy’s restroom under the new law.

The student, Hunter, is quoted in the release:

“I just want to be able to concentrate on school, grow as an artist, and have fun while doing that. I’m not a man. I have always felt more comfortable in the girls’ dorm at school and the girls’ restroom and using them has never been a problem. It’s humiliating and scary that there’s now a law that would force me to go to a boys’ bathroom when I clearly don’t belong there.”

Beverly Newell, a 45-year-old realtor, and Kelly Trent, a 39-year-old nurse, who are married and live in Charlotte, have also joined the litigation.

Newell and Trent claimed to experience discrimination first-hand after the passing of House Bill 2 when a fertility clinic canceled the couple’s appointment saying that the business no longer served same-sex couples.

The original lawsuit was filed in March with a 27-year-old transgender UNC – Chapel Hill employee, Joaquín Carcaño, Payton McGarry, a 20-year-old UNC – Greensboro student, and Angela Gilmore, a 52-year-old law professor at North Carolina Central University as plaintiffs.

The lawsuit is challenging House Bill 2 saying it violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

A ruling from the United State’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled a Virginia school board policy violated Title IX because it barred a transgender male student from using the boy’s restroom.

Chatham Commission Chair: HB2 is ‘Steaming Pile of Prejudice’

Chatham County Commissioners joined the growing list of local government leadership across North Carolina opposing House Bill 2 on Monday night.

Listen to the report from WCHL’s Blake Hodge below:


Chatham County Board of Commission Chair James Crawford read through a resolution opposing House Bill 2 at the board’s meeting earlier this week. The resolution said that the legislation, which requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom in public buildings corresponding with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, “is not based on factual criminal data and lacks an authentic understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” The resolution urged the North Carolina General Assembly to “repeal House Bill 2 at the earliest opportunity.”

The legislation has placed North Carolina in the national spotlight as Governor Pat McCrory and GOP leadership have called the bill “common sense legislation” that protects the privacy of North Carolinians, while advocates maintain the law is among the worst pieces of anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

Board member Walter Petty asked that the board not wade into the controversy over House Bill 2 because he wanted to see what the General Assembly did with the legislation once the short session begins on Monday.

“I think rather than create more problems and animosity,” Petty said, “I’d like to see us buy some time here and wait and see how things shake out before we move on this.”

Karen Howard disagreed with Petty, saying it was important to be ahead of the curve on this issue.

“If [passing the resolution] becomes disruptive, then we have a bigger problem than a resolution,” Howard said. “I think that getting out ahead of this and confronting this ugly piece of legislation in its face is essential.

“I think that the more communities that do this, the faster this thing is going to find its way out of our state.”

Howard also expressed displeasure that the bill removes local government’s abilities to put ordinances in place that go beyond the state’s nondiscrimination policy.

Petty said he did not feel House Bill 2 accomplished its “intended purpose” and, therefore, wanted to allow the legislature time to alter the law.

“Do you want to send a child into a changing facility or a locker room and have mixed company in there,” Petty asked. “I don’t know that we want to do that, and I think that was the intended purpose.”

Crawford said this bill was not about protecting women and children but rather served as a “Trojan horse” to pass discrimination in law.

“If [the General Assembly] really cared about the safety of women and children, they would have called a special session that would have dealt with child abuse as we know it exists,” Crawford said. “It would have been talking about people who are in the home; it would have been talking about restraining orders against angry spouses or angry ex-boyfriends. That’s where the problem lies for those kinds of things.

“And so, again, we’re back to not just the falsity of the Trojan horse, but they picked a target that they thought they could still beat up on, right? We’re still playing smear the queer in this country.”

Crawford added that he worked with a grad student who transitioned from female to male when Crawford was teaching at UNC and shared how this law would impact them.

“Under this law, Connor has to use the lady’s room – with Connor’s mustache,” Crawford said. “Or Connor faces the choice of breaking the law and going where he now feels comfortable going.

“Transgender people aren’t made up; they aren’t figments of someone’s imagination; they aren’t something created by a liberal agenda.”

Crawford also pointed to House Bill 2’s impact on jobs and tourism in the state.

“We’re trying to invite people into our state to invest and to have jobs and to enjoy our tourism amenities,” Crawford said, “But yet, in our parlor, we have this steaming pile of prejudice.”

The board voted 4-1 to pass the resolution with Petty voting against.

Orange County Commissioners passed a resolution calling for the repeal of House Bill 2 on Tuesday night, joining a growing list of local governments standing against the legislation.

The future of HB2 is being considered after the United States 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a decision that barred a Virginia transgender teenager from using the bathroom of his gender identity.

250 New Jobs on Hold Due to HB2

Deutsche Bank is freezing plans to create 250 new jobs in Cary.

The bank announced the decision on Tuesday in a message on the company’s website that said the decision is “due to state-wide legislation enacted in North Carolina on March 23 that invalidated existing protections of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender fellow citizens in some municipalities and prevents municipalities from adopting such protections in the future.”

The legislation the message is referring to is House Bill 2, which has drawn national criticism from groups ranging from LGBT advocacy groups, who are challenging the law’s constitutionality in federal court, to the editorial board of the New York Times.

Deutsche Bank is joining PayPal in canceling plans to expand in the Tar Heel state.

Governor Pat McCrory and state GOP leadership have repeatedly called the bill “common sense” legislation that will prevent grown men from entering a women’s bathroom or changing room. The bill came in a special session after the Charlotte City Council approved extending the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to the LGBT community. House Bill 2 says that individuals must use the bathroom of the sex on their birth certificate rather than the facility that matches their gender identity. The bill also repeals all ordinances from local governments that enact protection beyond the state’s nondiscrimination ordinance, which does not cover sexual orientation, gender identity or veteran status, among other areas.

The bill also prohibits local governments from requiring businesses to pay employees a living wage.

MORE: Bruce Springsteen Cancels Greensboro Concert Over House Bill 2

Duetsche Bank co-chief executive officer John Cryan said in the bank’s announcement that the company takes its commitment to building inclusive work environments seriously.

“We’re proud of our operations and employees in Cary and regret that as a result of this legislation we are unwilling to include North Carolina in our US expansion plans for now.” Cryan added. “We very much hope that we can re-visit our plans to grow this location in the near future.”

McCrory has defended the legislation amid backlash from business leaders around the state and country, saying the bill does not require private businesses to change their policies.

The release from Deutsche Bank says it is committed to sustaining the existing presence of 900 employees in Cary. The plan to add 250 jobs to the Cary location was announced in September and was to be rolled out through 2017.

ACLU Responds to UNC System Memo Regarding HB2

The plaintiffs challenging North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 issued a statement saying they were “disappointed” in the leadership from the University of North Carolina after a memo was sent to the system Chancellors from new President Margaret Spellings.

Spellings wrote in the memo that the legislation, which requires transgender individuals to use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth certificate rather than their gender identity, “supersedes nondiscrimination regulations imposed upon employers and public accommodations by political subdivisions of the state.”

While Spellings wrote that “The Act does not limit the ability of local government and universities to adopt policies with respect to their own employees,” she acknowledged that the 17 system campuses “must require every multiple-occupancy bathroom and changing facility to be designated for and used only by persons based on their biological sex.”

Spellings did encourage campuses to “Consider assembling and making information available about the locations of designated single-occupancy bathrooms and changing facilities on campus.” These single-occupancy facilities can be used by anyone under the new law.

The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality NC have all filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the law.

The groups released a joint statement on Thursday saying, “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 say that House Bill 2 is in violation of federal of puts the state of North Carolina at risk of losing billions of dollars in Title IX funding.

Joaquín Carcaño is a 27-year-old transgender man who is an employee of UNC – Chapel Hill and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging HB2. He said in the statement:

“Not only does this policy fail to protect my rights as a loyal and hard-working employee and make it harder for me to do my job, it sides with ignorance and fear. All I want is to use the appropriate restroom, in peace, just like everyone else. But now I am put in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I don’t belong and am uncomfortable or breaking the law.”

The lawsuit is asking for the federal court to immediately block the law while the case proceeds. There is no timetable for that decision to be handed down by the court. Once it is, the case will turn to looking into the constitutionality of the law.

PayPal Pulls Out of Charlotte Expansion Over HB2

PayPal, the California-based online payment company, has announced that the company “will not move forward” with a planned expansion in Charlotte because of recently-passed legislation that advocates are calling the worst anti-LGBT legislation in the nation.

PayPal announced two weeks ago that the company planned to open a new global operation center in Charlotte that would employ over 400 people, but PayPal President and CEO Dan Schulman said in a release the company will now “seek an alternative location for our operations center.”

Schulman wrote, “The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture.”

HB2 was passed in a special session of the General Assembly in late March after the Charlotte City Council voted to allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom of their gender identity rather than what is on their birth certificate. The law repealed that ordinance and banned municipalities from extending nondiscrimination ordinances put in place at the state level. House Bill 2 also prohibits local government from extending other ordinances that call for employers to pay a living wage, among other things.

Our decision is a clear and unambiguous one. But we do regret that we will not have the opportunity to be a part of the Charlotte community and to count as colleagues the skilled and talented people of the region. As a company that is committed to the principle that everyone deserves to live without fear of discrimination simply for being who they are, becoming an employer in North Carolina, where members of our teams will not have equal rights under the law, is simply untenable.

Schulman added that the company would “remain committed to working with the LGBT community in North Carolina to overturn this discriminatory legislation, alongside all those who are committed to equality.”

Proponents of HB2 have criticized PayPal for operating in Cuba but choosing not to expand in North Carolina since the decision was announced on Tuesday morning.

Roy Cooper: Attorney General’s Office Will Not Defend HB2

North Carolina Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on Tuesday that his office would not defend the constitutionality of House Bill 2, which – among other things – repeals the Charlotte City Council’s decision to extend the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance to the LGBT community.

Cooper began addressing reporters by saying, “We should not even be here today.”

Cooper added, “We’re here because the governor has signed statewide legislation that puts discrimination into the law.”

A lawsuit was filed on Monday by LGBT advocacy groups challenging the legislation.

Cooper went on to call House Bill 2 “a national embarrassment” adding that “it will set North Carolina’s economy back, if we don’t repeal it.”

Cooper said that rather than defending the listed defendants in the lawsuit – Governor Pat McCrory, UNC, the UNC System Board of Governors and that board chair Lou Bissette – his office would defend the state Treasurer’s office. Cooper said the Treasurer’s office has a nondiscrimination policy similar to one the Department of Justice has in place, and the Treasurer’s office, which is occupied by a Democrat, requested the services of the DOJ to defend that policy.

“In order to protect our nondiscrimination policy and employees, along with those of our client – the state Treasurer’s office – part of our argument will be that House Bill 2 in unconstitutional,” Cooper said.

Cooper said defending the Treasurer’s office in this case presents a conflict and, therefore, his office can not defend the state.

“Part of that duty of defending those policies, which help protect employees, would be to argue that this law in unconstitutional,” Cooper said. “And we can’t do both.”

Because the Attorney General’s office will not defend the state, the defendants will have to hire outside legal counsel – which has been done before when Cooper would no longer defend North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage.

During the press conference, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger issued a release saying that Cooper’s “zeal for pandering for the extreme left’s money and agenda in his race for governor is making it impossible for him to fulfill his duties as attorney general – and he should resign immediately.”

Cooper described this as a “unique and different situation.”

Cooper added, “My office has stepped up and defended some bad legislation that I do not agree with. We do our job in this office.”

Cooper took it a step beyond saying his office wouldn’t defend the lawsuit, calling for action from the legislature and Governor McCrory.

“Discrimination is wrong, period,” Cooper said. “The governor and the legislature should repeal this law.”

Cooper and McCrory are set to square off in what is expected to be one of the closest and most expensive races for Governor in the country in this November’s elections.