Republican lawmakers respond to lawsuit challenging House Bill 2

Published: Mar. 28, 2016 at 10:10 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2016 at 10:10 AM EDT
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Several organizations fight NC House Bill 2 (Steve Crump | WBTV)
Several organizations fight NC House Bill 2 (Steve Crump | WBTV)

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - Top Republican lawmakers in North Carolina have responded to a federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as other gay-rights advocates, Monday challenging House Bill 2.

Governor Pat McCrory signed a bill passed by the NC Senate Wednesday, striking down the Charlotte non-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance, passed in February by a 7-4 vote from the Charlotte City Council, broadly defined how businesses must treat gay, lesbian and transgender customers. But as in other cities recently, the debate has focused on bathrooms.

Democratic senators walked out following the 32-0 vote.

House Bill 2 is a "Measure that permits discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across the state," ACLU officials said in a press release.

WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the full lawsuit filed against HB2

The pro-equality advocates spoke out around 10 a.m. at the LGBT Center of Raleigh, located on S Harrington Street. The lead plaintiff in the case, Joaquín Carcaño, said members of the LGBT community will continue to exist despite bills trying to diminish their existence.

Carcaño, a 27-year-old transgender man, said, "As a male I use the male's restroom, as I should."

The new law requires schools and government agencies to designate restrooms based on biological sex.

"This is about more than bathrooms," Carcaño said. "This is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina."

"While they've accused the state of disrespecting local control, the irony is far-left groups like the national ACLU, their out-of-state lawyers and Attorney General Roy Cooper, want to use North Carolina as a pawn in their extreme agenda to force women and young girls to welcome grown men into their bathrooms and locker rooms nationwide," a joint statement from Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) said.

"This lawsuit takes this debate out of the hands of voters and instead attempts to argue with a straight face that there is a previously undiscovered 'right' in the U.S. Constitution for men to use women's bathrooms and locker rooms," the statement continued. "But we are confident the court will find the General Assembly acted properly in accordance with existing state and federal law."

Equality NC members feel that the community has taken a step backwards.

The advocacy groups released the following statement on Monday:

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina are filing the lawsuit together as co-counsel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. In the complaint being filed today, the plaintiffs allege that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

The North Carolina House passed House Bill 2 to repeal portions of Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance that passed last month. The bill passed with a 83-25 vote around before going to the Senate.

After its passage, several high ranking North Carolina Republicans, including Governor Pat McCrory, voiced concerns about people having the ability to choose public restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

"I think [it] breaks the basic standards, and frankly expectations, of privacy that all individuals - men and women and children alike - would expect in a restroom facility or a locker room facility," McCrory said during a one-on-one interview with WBTV in February. "I think they are creating a lot of potential problems."

RELATED ARTICLE: McCrory signs bill to undo Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance

The governor responded to the lawsuit Monday afternoon through his press secretary, Graham Wilson.

"The governor respects the right of any legal challenges; however, he does not respect the continued distortion of the facts by the groups challenging this law and by many members of the state and national media," said Graham Wilson, the governor's press secretary.

"To counter a coordinated national effort to mislead the public, intimidate our business community and slander our great state, the governor will continue to set the record straight on a common sense resolution to local government overreach that imposed new regulations on businesses that intruded into the personal lives of our citizens," Wilson continued. 
"The non-discrimination policies in place today in cities like Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville and in every business in North Carolina are the same as they were last month and last year. Where was this coordinated outrage and media attention when the original bathroom ordinance was defeated in Charlotte just last year?"

On Monday afternoon, McCrory did speak out on the legislation. He feels North Carolina is being portrayed unfairly in the national spotlight.

"There's a very well-coordinated campaign, a national campaign, which is distorting the truth, which is smearing out state in an inaccurate way," McCrory said. "I'm proud of us protecting the privacy rights of individuals, and not putting burdensome regulations on business and letting them make the decision."

In addition to the provisions of the bill seeking to repeal the bathroom-related portions of Charlotte's non-discrimination ordinance, the bill also addresses several workplace issues.

DOCUMENT: Click here to read the full bill

The ordinance, if it stood, would have taken place April 1.

RELATED ARTICLE: Proposed 'bathroom' bill addresses bathrooms, minimum wage, workplace discrimination

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