Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced yesterday the Justice Department has filed a complaint against the state of North Carolina, the University of North Carolina (UNC) and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (DPS) alleging that they are discriminating against transgender individuals in violation of federal law as a result of the state’s compliance with and implementation of House Bill 2 (H.B. 2). H.B. 2 requires public agencies to treat transgender individuals, whose gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth, differently from similarly situated non-transgender individuals.
The complaint, filed in the Middle District of North Carolina, follows the department’s notice to the defendants on May 4, 2016, that they are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).
“This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms,” said Attorney General Lynch. “This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens, and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them – indeed, to protect all of us. It’s about the founding ideals that have led this country – haltingly but inexorably – in the direction of fairness, inclusion, and equality for all Americans. This is not a time to act out of fear. This is a time to summon our national virtues of inclusivity, diversity, compassion, and open-mindedness. What we must not do – what we must never do – is turn on our neighbors, our family members, our fellow Americans, for something they cannot control, and deny what makes them human.”
The complaint alleges that the defendants, as a result of compliance with and implementation of the bathroom and changing facility provisions of H.B. 2, are engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender public employees and applicants in violation of Title VII, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of sex. Access to restrooms is an important, basic condition of employment and denying transgender individuals access to restrooms and changing facilities consistent with their gender identity constitutes unlawful sex discrimination.
The complaint also alleges that, as a result of these same provisions in H.B. 2, UNC and DPS are violating the non-discrimination provision of VAWA, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity. Additionally, the complaint alleges that UNC is violating Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. These laws apply to recipients of federal funding.
“H.B. 2 violates the laws that govern our nation and the values that define us as a people,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Transgender men are men – they live, work and study as men. Transgender women are women – they live, work and study as women. America protects the rights of all people to be who they are, to express their true selves and to live with dignity.”
The complaint is being handled by the Civil Rights Division which enforces the non-discrimination provisions of Title VII, Title IX and VAWA.