At the heart of the showdown is whether the bill’s bathroom provision -- which prohibits trans people from using the bathrooms in government buildings and public schools that match their gender identity -- is a violation of civil rights laws that bar discrimination based on one’s sex.
The dueling lawsuits could prove to be a history-making moment. Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, the next frontier in LGBT law is the rights of transgender people, and the North Carolina ruling sets the stage for what could be a landmark ruling.
The Justice Department is suing the state in its capacity as an employer, alleging that implementing HB2 will discriminate against transgender state employees. The Justice Department specifically targeted the University of North Carolina and the state Department of Public Safety. Its continued threats to withhold federal funding from the university and law enforcement suggest the Obama administration is pulling no punches when it comes to blocking the law.
In press conference Monday announcing the DOJ lawsuit, Attorney General Loretta Lynch called the legislation "state-sponsored discrimination against transgender individuals, who simply seek to engage in the most private of functions in a place of safety and security – a right taken for granted by most of us."
“We see you. We stand with you. We will do everything we can to protect you going forward,” Lynch vowed in her press conference, speaking directly to transgender Americans.
HB2 was rushed through the North Carolina state house in March as other state legislatures mulled and ultimately abandoned similar bills, for fears of legal sanctions and/or public relations nightmare. At the time, it was called one of the most anti-LGBT laws passed by a state legislature, and the feds have now made clear they don't intend to sit on the sidelines.
“So long as there’s a Democrat in the White House, you can expect this case to continue on until there’s a final ruling on the merits, likely by the court of the appeals, possibly by even the Supreme Court,” Winkler said.
And that raises yet another difference between Clinton/Sanders and Trump this November, one that is vital to remember.
It's outstanding to see the Obama administration finally stop treating open trans discrimination like it's merely a workplace disagreement or something that needs a paragraph from HR in the employee handbook, and start regarding it for what it truly is: a fundamental curtailing of civil rights that requires the full resources of the Justice Department to remedy, complete with significant punitive damages for states that do not comply.
The billions at stake in federal funding is definitely the hammer the government is using here to get North Carolina to drop the law, and as far as I'm concerned, AG Lynch and her team needs to swing away until NC Republicans are bloodied and bowed. Remember, NC Republicans are arguing that they not only believe transgender folks are not a "protected class" but that the state should be able to legally discriminate against anyone who isn't specifically a member of a "protected class".
That's abhorrently stupid and depressing on a number of levels, and it can't be allowed to stand.