US Justice Department: HB2 violates federal Civil Rights Act

US Justice Department: HB2 violates federal Civil Rights Act

RALEIGH, NC (Jim Morrill/The Charlotte Observer) - U.S. Justice Department officials rebuked North Carolina's House Bill 2 on Wednesday, telling Gov. Pat McCrory that the law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act and suggesting that it could jeopardize the state's federal education funding.

The department gave state officials until Monday to address the situation "by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2."

The letter says HB2, which pre-empted Charlotte's anti-discrimination ordinance, violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in education based on sex, and Title VII, which bars employers from discriminating.

If that determination is upheld, North Carolina could lose millions in federal school funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million in federal funding.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly passed HB2 in March in reaction to Charlotte's recent extension of its anti-discrimination ordinance, which would have allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their gender identity. Among other things, the bill defined gender by the sex people were born with.

House Speaker Tim Moore called the Justice Department letter "a huge over-reach (by) the federal government."

"It looks an awful lot like politics to me," Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, told reporters. "I guess President Obama, in his final months in office, has decided to take up this ultra-liberal agenda."

But opponents of HB2 applauded the Justice Department finding.

"The letter confirms what we've already known – that HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible," said Rep. Chris Sgro, a Democrat who is executive director of Equality NC. "We've already lost $500 million in economic impact and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title IX funding."

House Speaker Tim Moore called the Justice Department letter "a huge over-reach (by) the federal government."

"It looks an awful lot like politics to me," Moore, a Kings Mountain Republican, told reporters. "I guess President Obama, in his final months in office, has decided to take up this ultra-liberal agenda."

RELATED: Lawmakers react after federal government says HB2 violates civil rights

But opponents of HB2 applauded the Justice Department finding.

"The letter confirms what we've already known – that HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law, and needs to be repealed as soon as possible," said Rep. Chris Sgro, a Democrat who is executive director of Equality NC. "We've already lost $500 million in economic impact and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title IX funding."

In the letter, Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said, "...The Department of Justice has determined that, as a result of compliance with and implementation of NC House Bill2, both you and the state of NC are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 0f 1964...

"Title VII prohibits an employer from discriminating against an individual on the basis of sex and from otherwise resisting the full enjoyment of Title VII rights....

"Federal courts and administrative agencies have applied Title VII to discrimination against transgender individuals based on sex, including gender identity....

"Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from the gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII …

"HB 2...is facially discriminatory against transgender employees on the basis of sex because it treats transgender employees, whose gender identity does not match their biological sex, as defined by HB2, differently from similarly situated non transgender employees…

Based upon the above, we have concluded that in violation of Title VII, the state is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by employees of public agencies…

"Please advise the department, therefore, no later than the close of business on May 9, 2016, whether you will remedy these violations of Title VII including by confirming that the state will not comply with or implement HB2....

"We further inform you that that today the department sent letters addressed to the NC Department of Public Safety and the University of NC similarly notifying them of our conclusion that they have engaged in violations of Title VII as well as violations of Title IX."