North Carolina governor files lawsuit against federal government over HB2

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Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has filed a lawsuit against the United States Justice Department, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and one of her assistants on Monday.

McCrory’s lawsuit comes after the U.S. Justice Department sent a letter to Gov. McCrory asking for action to be taken regarding House Bill 2, or the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which bans individuals from using a public bathroom that does not correspond with their biological sex, as dictated by their birth certificate.

The Justice Department sent a letter to Gov. McCrory last week that stated, “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 their gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII.”

Because of the U.S. Justice’s Department’s allegations that the law violates Title VII, North Carolina stands to lose more than a billion dollars in public education dollars. For Western North Carolina, that means significant losses in revenue for the local school district, Southwestern Community College, and Western Carolina University.

“This legislation has raised many questions throughout the University of North Carolina system, and it has resulted in a complex and rapidly evolving situation,” said Bill Studenc, Director of Communications for Western Carolina University. “At Western Carolina University, we continue to carefully assess the scope, reach and potential impact of this law on the university, in consultation with legal counsel and with the UNC system. While we are assessing this matter and as it continues to work its way through the legislative, political and judicial processes, our policies and practices remain unchanged.”

Gov. McCrory’s lawsuit states that the U.S. Justice Department’s position is a “radical reinterpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

Congressman Mark Meadows issued a statement on Monday supporting Gov. McCrory’s decision.

“I fully support Governor McCrory’s decision to sue the Department of Justice (DOJ) over their efforts to pull federal funding from North Carolina,” said Congressman Meadows. “This action by the DOJ is yet another example of the federal government attempting to bully states by engaging in serious executive overreach and rewriting state laws to fit their own agenda. Furthermore, the Department of Justice’s interpretation of the Civil Rights Act is a radical departure from the original intent of the law and shows a troubling willingness of the Obama Administration to selectively enforce laws at their own discretion.”

In response to Gov. McCrory’s lawsuit, the Department of Justice announced that they would be suing North Carolina over the legislation. In a live press conference held Monday afternoon, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said the law was “state-sponsored discrimination.”

While the result of HB2 plays out in court, regional economic groups are waiting to see what impact, if any, the law can have on the state. Macon County Commissioner Kevin Corbin serves as the Chairman of the Southwest Commission and said as a region, he believes Western North Carolina will not be impacted by the pending legal battle.

“I am not aware of a single problem that had arisen by folks being confused or discriminated against for choosing a certain restroom or bathroom facility,” said Corbin. “There has not been one case in N.C.  To begin with, the action taken by the Charlotte City Council appeared unnecessary to me.  When they passed that action, the Legislature then reacted by clarifying that you should choose the restroom of your birth sex.  Also, the N.C. action only applies to public buildings, schools, rest areas, etc. … it does not impact private business. The whole thing has been an unnecessary distraction when other things are much more important.  I would ask each person reading this to ask yourself, ‘have I ever been stopped on my way to a public restroom or facility and been asked for a ‘gender check?’ This was an ordinance/law looking for an issue. It appears the N.C. action asks those born men to use men’s rooms and those born women to use women’s rooms. It also does not appear to me to impact businesses at all as far as what type of restroom facilities they provide. The action from the Department of Justice is purely political.  In the end, I do not believe this will impact federal funding. This is all election year antics. N.C. has the ninth largest economy in the U.S. and has had the fastest growing economy in the USA. There is no way this should impact our federal funding.  When the dust clears, I think you will see that federal funding has not been altered. There is no way N.C. is going to let that happen. I have not heard anyone involved in this indicate that they were for discrimination of any kind.”

Southwestern Community College is bracing for an impact, but as of now, are just following the legal battle closely.

SCC is following the North Carolina Community Colleges official statement on the issue as a guiding path on the issue. The official statement from the system office states: “The NC Community College System receives $33 million in federal funds that support programs such as Career and Technical Education and Adult Education and Literacy. This represents approximately 2 percent of the System’s $1.4 billion budget. The loss of these funds would significantly impact these initiatives. Individual colleges may receive additional grant funds directly from the federal government. Examples include TRIO Grants, U.S. Department of Labor grants, etc., among others.

“The figures cited do not include the $457 million that our community college students received in Pell Grants in the 2014-15 academic year. It has not been determined if these monies would be included in the U.S. Department of Justice letter sent to Governor Pat McCrory. We are in close contact with the Governor’s Office, General Assembly leaders and education partners regarding this issue, as well as any potential next steps in DOJ’s plan of action.

 

“As of now, it is important that our students, their families, and our faculty and staff recognize that there is no immediate action planned that would disrupt the flow of Pell Grants or other federal funds. The System Office will continue to closely monitor this situation.”

SCC receives roughly $10.1 million in federal funds, $5.5 million in federal student financial aid and $4.6 million in federal grants.

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