On Wednesday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed an executive order banning anyone “doing business with the state” from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity.
Executive Order No. 24 bans employment discrimination by any government contractor or any government agency within the governor’s administration. In a statement, Gov. Cooper said the order is meant to “make North Carolina a welcoming place to all.”
State law prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, religion and sex – but not sexual orientation or gender identity. The US Justice Department under President Obama had interpreted the word “sex” broadly, to cover sexual orientation and gender identity – but the Trump administration has adopted a narrower definition, arguing that the word “sex” does not cover discrimination against LGBT people.
In addition to the executive order, Gov. Cooper’s office has also announced a possible settlement with the ACLU and Lambda Legal in the ongoing lawsuit over HB142. That’s the bill passed earlier this year that repealed HB2 but left in place a four-year ban on transgender people using public restrooms in accordance with their gender identity. As part of the settlement, the ACLU and Lambda Legal would drop their lawsuit challenging HB142; in exchange, transgender people would be allowed to use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity in public buildings under the Executive Department’s “control or supervision.”
A judge still has to sign off on the agreement – but if that happens, the case of Carcaño v. Cooper would be resolved. Joaquin Carcaño is a UNC employee who is transgender; he was also one of the lead plaintiffs in the court case challenging HB2.