NCAA again weighing North Carolina as host after bathroom law repeal

FILE PHOTO - A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, U.S. on May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – The National Collegiate Athletic Association said on Tuesday it will again consider allowing North Carolina to host championship games after the state replaced a law it deemed discriminatory against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

The NCAA had stripped North Carolina of championship events to protest the law, which required transgender people to use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity and limited protection against discrimination of LGBT people.

Last week, state legislators in Raleigh passed a new law that repealed the bathroom measure. But they also banned cities from enacting their own anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people until 2020 and permanently blocked local legal protections for transgender people in restrooms.

The NCAA said those restrictions concerned its board of governors, who had preferred a full repeal of the year-old law known as House Bill 2.

A majority of the board “reluctantly” voted to permit the state to be considered for championship games in light of the new measure, the NCAA said.

“This new law has minimally achieved a situation where we believe NCAA championships may be conducted in a nondiscriminatory environment,” the governing body for U.S. college athletics said in a statement.

The announcement came hours after the North Carolina Tar Heels’ men’s basketball team clinched the national title Monday night. Coach Roy Williams had opposed HB 2, which prompted the NCAA to move two rounds of the Division I men’s tournament out of hoops-crazed North Carolina.

Critics of the new law, signed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper after being approved by the Republican-controlled legislature on Thursday, called the NCAA’s announcement disappointing.

They argue the state is continuing to discriminate against LGBT people with a measure they have dubbed “HB2.0.”

“After drawing a line in the sand and calling for repeal of HB 2, the NCAA simply let North Carolina lawmakers off the hook,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said in a statement.

The Atlantic Coast Conference, another major collegiate athletic league, also has restored North Carolina’s eligibility to host championship sporting events.

Cooper and top Republican lawmakers, Senate Leader Phil Berger and House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore, said in statements they were pleased by the NCAA’s move.

After a year of boycotts by corporations, conventions and concerts, elected officials said the revised measure addressed discrimination concerns while still protecting safety and privacy in government restrooms.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

Eleven U.S. states to drop suit over transgender bathroom order

An activist waves a rainbow flag during the "Queer and Trans Dance Party" in protest of U.S. President Donald Trump outside of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., February 26, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

(Reuters) – Eleven U.S. states have agreed to drop a lawsuit against an Obama administration order for transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice after the measure was revoked by President Donald Trump, a court filing showed on Thursday.

In a filing in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Justice Department said the states, led by Texas, had agreed to drop the lawsuit, and it was dropping its appeal against a federal judge’s August stay on the Obama directive.

In their suit in May, the states said Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration overstepped its authority by ordering public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms matching their gender identity, rather than their birth gender, or risk losing federal funding.

Obama officials had said that barring students from such bathrooms violated Title IX, the federal law that forbids sex discrimination in education.

But the directive enraged conservatives who say federal civil rights protections cover biological sex, not gender identity. Obama was succeeded by Trump, a Republican, when he left office in January.

Texas was joined in the lawsuit by Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The Arizona Department of Education, Maine Republican Governor Paul LePage and two school districts also were parties to the suit.

A federal judge in August barred adoption of the order during the hearing of the case. The Justice Department appealed the stay, saying it should only apply to the states challenging the order.

Last week, the Trump administration rescinded the order, leaving states and school boards to decide how to accommodate transgender students.

Other lawsuits about the rights of transgender students are being heard in the courts.

The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on March 28 addressing the question of whether the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia can block a female-born transgender student from using the boys’ bathroom.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

School board in key transgender case seeks U.S. high court delay

File Photo: A bathroom sign welcomes both genders at the Cacao Cinnamon coffee shop in Durham, North Carolina, United States on May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Virginia school board sued by a student over bathroom access in a major transgender rights case asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to delay the matter until at least April, when President Donald Trump’s conservative nominee could be on the bench and potentially cast the deciding vote.

Lawyers on both sides of the dispute urged the justices to decide the case even though the Trump administration on Feb. 22 rescinded Obama administration guidance to public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. The Gloucester County School Board asked for the delay so the Trump administration, which is not a party in the case, can file a brief providing its views.

The court, currently one justice short, has scheduled oral arguments for March 28 on whether the school board violated a federal anti-discrimination law when it blocked Gavin Grimm, a female-born transgender high school student who identifies as male, from using the boys’ bathroom. A ruling is due by the end of June.

Trump on Jan. 31 nominated appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the vacancy on the court caused by the February 2016 death of conservative justice Antonin Scalia. The Senate has scheduled Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings to begin on March 20 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said he hopes Gorsuch will be confirmed before the start of a Senate recess in mid-April.

The court currently has four conservatives and four liberals. Gorsuch’s confirmation would restore a long-standing conservative majority.

If the justices delay arguments until the court’s two-week session beginning April 17 or even put it over until the next court term starts in October, Gorsuch potentially could participate. If the court hears the case with eight justices, it could split 4-4, which would leave in place a lower court’s ruling favoring the student, Gavin Grimm, but set no nationwide legal precedent.

The justice asked both sides to weigh in after the Trump administration’s action.

Although Trump’s decision to roll back Obama’s May 2016 guidance effectively knocked out one of the legal questions in the case, lawyers on both sides said the justices can still decide whether a federal law, known as Title IX, that bars sex discrimination in education covers transgender students.

Trump’s move “makes resolution of that question more urgent than ever,” said Joshua Block, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who represents Grimm and opposed a postponement.

“Delaying resolution of that question will only lead to further harm, confusion and protracted litigation for transgender students and school districts across the country,” Block added.

The court could take a more cautious approach and send the case back to the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider its April 2016 ruling in favor of Grimm in light of the Trump administration’s action.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)