North Carolina Passes a Controversial Law That Overturns City Anti-LGBT Discrimination Laws

Yarelyn Mena  and Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On March 23, 2016, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed in to law the Public Facilities Privacy of Security Act (or H.B. 2), which bans transgender people from using the public bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity, overturns Charlotte, North Carolina’s anti-LGBT discrimination law, prevents other localities from passing anti-discrimination laws, and prevents cities from raising their minimum wages higher than that of the state. H.B. 2 was passed days before Transgender Day of Visibility, a day that recognizes the accomplishments of the transgender community. Although there were many recent victories for the LGBT community, H.B. 2 is an important reminder that there is still a lot of work to be done before LGBT individuals have the same rights everyone enjoys.

On February 22, 2016, the city of Charlotte, North Carolina passed a law prohibiting discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the workplace. The most controversial part of the law was that it would allow transgendered people to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Opponents of the bill nicknamed it the “bathroom bill” and argue that it made bathrooms unsafe for women and children. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Payton McGarry, a transgender student, is one of the Plaintiff’s in a lawsuit challenging H.B. 2, who has been assaulted and ridiculed for using the bathroom that comports with his gender identity at his university, experiences which will only grow worse with H.B. 2 in place. H.B. 2 abrogated that law.

North Carolina’s residents already are being hurt by H.B. 2. The Obama administration is considering whether to disqualify the state of North Carolina from receiving federal funds from the Departments of Education, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation. With respect to the private sector, major corporations, including American Airlines and PayPal, have expressed their opposition to the law by pulling out of deals that they had in North Carolina, and musicians have cancelled appearances scheduled in North Carolina.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal, and Equality North Carolina already is challenging the law, filing a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina against Governor McCrory, state Attorney General Roy Cooper III, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina, and board Chairman W. Louis Bissette Jr. The complaint states, “by singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, [House Bill 2] violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution. [House Bill 2] imposes a different and more burdensome political process on LGBT people than on non-LGBT people who have state protection against identity-based discrimination.” The bill’s opponents hope that this issue makes its way to the Supreme Court, preventing such laws to be passed in other states while others are fearful that the vacancy at the Supreme Court bench left behind by Justice Antonin Scalia will result in a split decision.

We must continue to fight for rights for members of the LGBT community. Ensuring equality is an important step in allowing everyone to live his or her lives safely and productively in the workplace.

If your employer has discriminated against you because of your sex, sexual orientation and/or gender, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.