Charlotte lesbian couple joins HB2 lawsuit, alleging discrimination by fertility clinic

Charlotte lesbian couple joins HB2 lawsuit, alleging discrimination by fertility clinic

CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - Two Charlotte women have joined the legal challenge against House Bill 2, saying that their recent appointment at a fertility clinic was canceled because the company doesn't serve same-sex couples.

Charlotteans Beverly Newell and Kelly Trent, who are married, have become new plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups against HB2. According to the lawsuit, the unnamed fertility clinic they were scheduled to visit called to cancel based on the fact that Newell, 45, and Trent, 39, are the same gender.

Newell, a Realtor, blames HB2.

"It's unnerving to know that we could be turned away by any business for being a same-sex couple and have no recourse because of HB2," she said in a statement released by the ACLU. "HB2 has encouraged this type of conduct and we no longer have the ability to file discrimination complaints when this type of thing happens in our home city of Charlotte. The bill has made it OK to harm LGBT people. The state of North Carolina is better than this."

Under the new state law, LGBT individuals are not included as a protected class in discrimination cases. HB2 also restricts residents' abilities to file legal discrimination complaints in state courts.

Chris Brook, the ACLU's legal director in North Carolina, said the law "gives a green light to discriminate against LGBT people."

"Beverly and Kelly deserve to feel secure in knowing that when they go about their daily lives in Charlotte and interact with businesses open to the public, any discrimination they encounter is illegal. HB2 robs them of that," he said.

The federal lawsuit was filed last month after the legislature enacted the law. HB2 was designed to roll back a move by the city of Charlotte to expand LGBT protections, including a provision that would have allowed transgender persons to use the bathroom that matches their sexual identity rather than the one on their birth certificate.

Critics say HB2, which legislative supporters are calling the "Bathroom Safety Law," goes well beyond controlling access to restrooms and other public facilities.

This week, a federal court ruling in a transgender student's legal fight in Virginia over school bathroom rights appeared to add momentum to the North Carolina challenge.

With a Carolinas judge leading the way, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this week that the high school student can sue his Virginia school board for discrimination because he has been banned from using the boys' bathroom. Gavin Grimm was born a girl but sees himself as a boy, and says he feels stigmatized by his school board's policy of forcing him to use a unisex bathroom.

A separate school bathroom based on sexual identity is considered unlawful under the U.S. Department of Education's Title IX, which bans discrimination in school programs and activities. The federal law says students should have access to bathrooms that match their gender identities, not their biological sex.

That position was upheld Tuesday by the 4th Circuit's 2-1 decision, with Judge Henry Floyd, a Brevard native who lives in Pickens County, S.C., writing the majority opinion. Floyd also wrote the court's decision in 2014 that eventually overturned North Carolina's same-sex marriage bans.

HB2 requires transgender students to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and public showers of their biological sex unless they have undergone sex-reassignment surgery and changed the gender on their birth certificates. Under the law, universities, colleges and public schools are allowed to establish single-person facilities for transgender use.

Critics say those provisions jeopardize more than $4.5 billion in federal school money. The law also has drawn an array of state and national critics, from political and religious leaders to corporations and the entertainment industry.

This week, the British government issued a warning to LGBT travelers about visiting North Carolina.