Federal judge questions continuing NC ‘bathroom bill’ case

On Monday a federal judge questioned how legislation that replaced a state law criticized for being discriminatory against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people is harming anyone.

The law — House Bill 142 — was passed and signed into law last year to replace House Bill 2, commonly known has HB2.  The controversial HB2 required transgender people to use the restroom, locker room or showers in government buildings and schools that correspond to the sex on their birth certificate, rather than their gender identity. HB2 established a statewide non-discrimination ordinance that excluded LGBT people.

The national business backlash to HB2 caused several major companies to cancel their relocation to NC, had music  concerts canceled, and had several national sporting leagues pulled. The backlash continued in politics with Gov. Pat McCrory losing the election with many feeling it was over HB2.

In response the Republican-led General Assembly passed House Bill 142. However,plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2 amended their complaint in September, arguing that House Bill 142 didn’t solve the issue and created more problems. Specifically, they argued that the law is so vague that transgender people don’t know if they will be criminally prosecuted if they use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

Currently,the plaintiffs have no local remedy to claims of discrimination because state legislators now retain regulation of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities. The state law prohibits local governments from passing any nondiscrimination ordinance regulating public accommodations or private business practices until Dec. 1, 2020. The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal.

Attorneys for House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuit. They argue that plaintiffs failed to establish standing in their amended complaint and that House Bill 142 makes all their allegations of discrimination moot. The University of North Carolina system has also filed a separate motion to dismiss.

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder said he plans to issue a decision as soon as possible but did not provide a timeline for when that would happen.

Schroeder declined during the hearing to consider any arguments about a pending consent decree with Gov. Roy Cooper that would ensure that transgender people can use restrooms corresponding to their gender identities at facilities run by the executive branch agencies that oversee the environment, transportation, Medicaid and others. Legislative leaders and the state university system have not signed the agreement.