Today the Obama Justice Department warned North Carolina state officials that their state stands to lose millions of dollars in federal funds unless they change a measure limiting access to bathrooms for transgender people. In a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory, DOJ contends that they and North Carolina would be in violation of federal civil rights law if the bill passes.
 
According to the Justice Department, the state law violates federal law under Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. The Obama administration says that with the passage of House Bill 2, “the state is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII right by employees of public agencies.”
 
In the past, the Justice Department has used investigations into “pattern or practice” to stop what it deems systemic abuses of civil liberties laws by public agencies.
 
The letter from the Justice Department was signed by Vanita Gupta, an Obama appointee who leads the agency’s civil rights division. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Gupta gave North Carolina until May 9 to address the issue “by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.”
 
HB2 refers to a sweeping law that was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor in March by overruling an ordinance passed in Charlotte that supporters contend protected transgender people who use public restrooms based on their gender identity rather than their actual sex. The new law also nullified local ordinances around the state that would have expanded protections for homosexuals and those of other sexual practices.  The new law – known officially as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act – makes it illegal for cities to expand upon already established state laws prohibiting discrimination in work places etc. 
 
If the DOJ’s determination is upheld, North Carolina could lose federal education funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million in federal funding. The University of North Carolina got $1.4 billion in 2014-15. 
 
House Speaker Tim Moore (R) called the letter “a huge over-reach (by) the federal government.” “It looks an awful lot like politics to me,” said Moore. “I guess President Obama, in his final months in office, has decided to take up this ultra-liberal agenda.” For his part, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger called the ruling “a gross overreach … that deserves to be struck down in federal court.” And Lt. Gov. Dan Forest blasted the Obama administration: “To use our children and their educational futures as pawns to advance an agenda that will ultimately open those same children up to exploitation at the hands of sexual predators is by far, the sickest example of the depths the … administration will stoop to ‘fundamentally transform our nation.” 
 
“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.” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual advocacy group, applauded “the Justice Department for enforcing the rule of law and protecting the rights of North Carolinians.”
 
The Justice Department letter came two days after the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission posted a fact sheet reiterating its stance that it is a Civil Rights violation to deny transgender employees access to a bathroom based on gender identity.
 
In the letter, Vanita Gupta, principal deputy assistant attorney general, wrote, “...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.”

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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