The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Wednesday that North Carolina's anti-LGBTQ legislation violates federal civil rights, warning the state that it is in danger of losing federal funding if it does not repeal the law.
In a letter (pdf) to Governor Pat McCrory, DOJ civil rights chief Vanita Gupta said that the state's recently passed legislation requiring transgender people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in government buildings that correspond to their biological sex—rather than their gender identity—violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against employees on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.
"Specifically, the State is engaging in a practice or pattern 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 states. "Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition, or privilege of any employment."
The DOJ ordered McCrory to confirm by May 9 that the state would not implement the law and would notify its employees that they are allowed to access facilities consistent with their gender identities.
If the state does not comply with the agency's order, it stands to lose out on federal funding and opens itself up to copious lawsuits.
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The state legislature passed House Bill 2 (HB2) in a special single-day session on March 23, and McCrory signed it into law later that night. News of the bill's passage brought an immediate backlash against North Carolina, as governors around the country banned nonessential government travel there and artists and businesses increasingly cancelled plans to perform or set up shop in the state. Protests on the ground have continued for weeks, and the UK in April issued travel warnings against visiting "anti-gay" states like North Carolina and Mississippi, which also recently passed discriminatory legislation.
In response to the DOJ's letter, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and LGBTQ civil rights law group Lambda Legal released a statement that read, "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 HB2 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 HB2 is causing to North Carolina's people, economy, and reputation is a full repeal," the groups said.
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, added, "North Carolina has sacrificed jobs, its standing in the nation, and its moral compass in defense of this repugnant law. We hope that today's letter from the Justice Department will convince the state that the costs of codifying hate into state law are simply too high to ignore."