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Federal Judge Will Have To Rule On Whether N.C. Law Discriminates


This morning there seems to be just one thing Obama's attorney general and the Republican governor of North Carolina can agree on. A federal judge needs to rule on whether the state's controversial House Bill 2 constitutes discrimination. From member station WFAE in Charlotte, Tom Bullock reports.

TOM BULLOCK, BYLINE: Sitting in her apartment in Charlotte, 26-year-old Jessica Manning freely admits she's breaking North Carolina law.

JESSICA MANNING: I use the female's restroom. And I'm not going to stop just because of this bill or any other bill. I am - I mean, what are they going to do, arrest me?

BULLOCK: They could. North Carolina's House Bill 2 mandates that people use the restroom, locker room and shower facility corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate. Jessica was born Josh. And even though her driver's license lists her sex as female, her birth certificate still has the letter M listed under sex. To Jessica and other transgender individuals, the fight over which bathrooms they use is more than just a matter of choice or convenience. It's a civil rights issue. And now they have a powerful ally in that fight, the U.S. Department of Justice.


LORETTA LYNCH: State-sanctioned discrimination never looks good and never works in hindsight.

BULLOCK: That's U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. She is from North Carolina and did not mince words in comparing House Bill 2 to the Jim Crow-era South.


LYNCH: It was not so very long ago that states, including North Carolina, had other signs above restrooms, water fountains and on public accommodations, keeping people out based on a distinction without a difference.

BULLOCK: Now the DOJ is suing the state, asking a judge to rule the law is discriminatory because it denies transgender people access to the facility of their choice. And that, the DOJ argues, is tantamount to sexual discrimination. The state has filed a suit of its own.


PAT MCCRORY: Our nation is dealing with a very new, complex and emotional issue.

BULLOCK: North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory.


MCCRORY: How to balance the expectations of privacy and equality.

BULLOCK: He, too, is asking a federal judge to determine if the law is discriminatory. Both cases are in reference to sections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, namely Title VII, which bars employment discrimination and Title IX, which bars discrimination in education. The DOJ asserts the bathroom provisions of House Bill 2 violate both these sections. The governor disagrees.

Republican Dan Bishop, a state representative who sponsored the bill, sees something else at work here - the Obama administration looking to set a new precedent for LGBT rights nationwide.

DAN BISHOP: They want to roll this newest social revolution out across the United States, and they don't have that much time left to do it.

BULLOCK: Now it's up to federal judges to decide if the fight over North Carolina's House Bill 2 is about civil rights or government overreach. For NPR News, I'm Tom Bullock in Charlotte, N.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Bullock decided to trade the khaki clad masses and traffic of Washington DC for Charlotte in 2014. Before joining WFAE, Tom spent 15 years working for NPR. Over that time he served as everything from an intern to senior producer of NPR’s Election Unit. Tom also spent five years as the senior producer of NPR’s Foreign Desk where he produced and reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon among others. Tom is looking forward to finally convincing his young daughter, Charlotte, that her new hometown was not, in fact, named after her.
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