Settlement expands transgender restroom rights in NC

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WNCN) — A federal judge approved a legal settlement Tuesday affirming transgender people’s right to use restrooms matching their gender identity in many North Carolina public buildings.

The consent decree is expected to end a protracted lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s so-called bathroom bill and the law that replaced it.

The agreement between the plaintiffs and North Carolina’s Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper says that nothing in the current state law can be interpreted to “prevent transgender people from lawfully using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity” in buildings controlled by the state’s executive branch.

FILE – In a June 25, 2018 file photo, plaintiff Joaquin Carcano, center, addresses reporters after a hearing in Winston-Salem, N.C., on their lawsuit challenging the law that replaced North Carolina’s “bathroom bill.” A federal judge approved a legal settlement Tuesday, July 23, 2019 affirming transgender people’s right to use restrooms matching their gender identity in many North Carolina public buildings.(AP Photo/Jonathan Drew, File)

The agreement further says that executive branch officials, such as the current and future governors, and their employees at state agencies are forbidden from using current state law “to bar, prohibit, block, deter, or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities … in accordance with the transgender individual’s gender identity.”

In return, plaintiffs have agreed to drop pending legal action against the governor and other defendants.

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders, who passed the “bathroom bill” and its replacement, had opposed the agreement that’s been in the works since 2017.

The 2016 law, also known as H.B.2, required transgender people to use restrooms matching their birth certificates in state government buildings and other publicly owned structures including highway rest stops. While that requirement was later rescinded, a replacement law halts new local antidiscrimination ordinances until 2020. The transgender plaintiffs had continued to challenge the new law in court.

Joaquin Carcano, the lead plaintiff in the case, hailed the judge’s decision in a statement.

“After so many years of managing the anxiety of H.B.2 and fighting so hard, I am relieved that we finally have a court order to protect transgender people from being punished under these laws,” he said.

Still, he said that the current law’s moratorium on new anti-discrimination laws “remains devastating.”

Bill D’Elia, a spokesperson for Senate Leader Phil Berger’s office, released the following statement:

“The consent decree essentially confirms that government agencies under executive branch control can continue to follow the same bathroom policy they have been using since Gov. Cooper’s October 2017 executive order while putting this lawsuit to bed. Hopefully we can finally put this years-old issue behind us and move forward. “

Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the Executive Director for Asheville-based Campaign for Southern Equality, said:

“This settlement is a significant step forward for North Carolina in our years-long fight for equality for all LGBTQ people across the state, and we applaud the brave plaintiff and legal teams at Lambda Legal and the ACLU of North Carolina for their leadership in court. Today, we celebrate a step forward, and we’re grateful for every North Carolinian, including so many grassroots leaders, for resisting this oppressive law. 

“At the same time, the agreement does not address the other elements of HB142, such as the preemption of municipalities from passing local policies protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination. On top of that, North Carolina lacks statewide nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. We need these protections urgently, as we continue to hear stories of LGBTQ people who face discrimination at work, while seeking housing, or in the public square. Under HB142, local governments are forbidden from protecting their own residents from discrimination until December 2020, and that’s just not right. 

“We continue to call for the full and immediate repeal of every provision of HB 142 and we’ll keep fighting for a North Carolina in which people never face discrimination because of who they are or who they love.” 

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