US govt & NC escalate legal fight over transgender law

US Justice Department and North Carolina sue each other over law limiting public bathroom access for transgender people, trading accusations of violating civil rights and government overreach.

Photo by: AP (Archive )
Photo by: AP (Archive )

In this Aug. 23, 2007, file photo, a sign marks the entrance to a gender-neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington.

A fight erupted between the Obama administration and North Carolina after the state passed a law that limits public bathroom access for transgender people.

US Justice Department asked a federal court in North Carolina on Monday to declare that the law is violating the 1964 Civil Rights Act and order it to stop enforcing the ban.

Five days ago, the department sent a letter to North Carolina's Republican governor, Pat McCrory and other officials demanding the abandonment of the law that was approved in March.

However, the Department’s lawsuit came after McCrory sued the agency in a different federal court in North Carolina, accusing it of "baseless and blatant overreach."

The law, which is also known as House Bill 2 (HB2) requires people to use public restrooms corresponding to their biological sex, not based on their gender identity.

According to the Justice Department’s civil rights office, the act is discriminatory and violates civil rights.

US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said “This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”

She added that the department “retains the option” of curtailing federal funding to the state if it does not back down.

"None of us can stand by when a state enters the business of legislating identity and insists that a person pretend to be something or someone that they are not," she said.

On the other hand, the state defends that the law does not discriminate against transgender people or treat them differently from non-transgenders.

A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. (Reuters)

Americans are also divided over how the restrooms should be used by transgenders.

According to a poll launched by Ipsos, 44 percent of the participants said that transgenders should use public restrooms according to their biological sex.

Supporters of House Bill 2 gather at the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, NC, Monday, April 11, 2016, during a rally in support of a law that blocks rules allowing transgender people to use the bathroom aligned with their gender identity.

The 39 percent of poll participants said the public restrooms should be used based on the gender that people identify themselves.

Protesters march to show their opposition against what they called "Hate Bill 2" which they urged lawmakers to repeal as legislators convened for a short session in Raleigh, North Carolina April 25, 2016.

North Carolina is the first US state that approved this kind of law.

However, Lynch said the Justice Department is monitoring other jurisdictions that have passed or considered laws similar to North Carolina's.

TRTWorld and agencies