Trump administration drops North Carolina ‘bathroom bill’ lawsuit

FILE PHOTO: A sign protesting a North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(Reuters) – The Trump administration on Friday dropped a lawsuit accusing North Carolina of discriminating against LGBT residents after the state replaced its “bathroom bill”, although a key civil liberties group vowed to keep fighting the new law in court.

In a two-sentence court filing the Justice Department said it had dropped its lawsuit, filed last year by the Obama administration, because the North Carolina legislature had replaced it with a new law called House Bill 142.

The filing marks the first significant move in a complicated legal battle challenging the state’s nondiscrimination laws since the replacement of the original law, known as House Bill 2 or more commonly as the “bathroom bill.”

House Bill 2’s most controversial provision was the requirement that in state-run buildings transgender people use the bathrooms, changing rooms and showers that corresponded to the sex on their birth certificates rather than their gender identity.

A number of businesses and sports leagues boycotted North Carolina because they saw the year-old law as discriminatory against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Civil liberties groups also protested the move.

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal filed a lawsuit challenging the law in March of last year. That was followed in May by the Justice Department’s own suit against House Bill 2.

James Esseks, the ACLU’s LGBT Project Director said the new law is flawed because it keeps a ban on cities and counties from creating their own nondiscriminatory ordinaces until 2020 and relegates to the state legislature the power to regulate bathroom access. The legislature has purposefully not taken any action to define access, he said.

House Bill 142 “leaves transgender people in limbo and that’s intentional,” Esseks said. “This does not fix the problem. It creates confusion.”

Esseks said his group planned to amend their lawsuit soon to challenge the new bill.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler and Chizu Nomiyama)

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)

College league ends North Carolina boycott after bathroom law revoked

FILE PHOTO: A sign protesting a North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(Reuters) – The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a major collegiate athletic league, said on Friday it has restored North Carolina’s eligibility to host championship sporting events after the state repealed restrictions on bathroom access for transgender people.

The ACC move was the first organization to end the kind of boycotts imposed on North Carolina by various athletic and business entities in a protest against last year’s enactment of the so-called bathroom law, denounced by opponents as discriminatory.

After months of political wrangling, the Republican-controlled legislature on Thursday repealed that law, which required transgender individuals entering restrooms, locker rooms and showers in public buildings to use facilities that matched their sex at birth, as opposed to their gender identity.

The statute, widely known as HB 2, also barred local governments in the state from enacting their own anti-discrimination protections in housing, employment and other areas on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

In its place, the HB 2 repeal prevented local jurisdictions from enacting such anti-discrimination measures until 2020.

The HB 2 repeal also reserved for state lawmakers sole authority to regulate access to “multiple occupancy restrooms, showers or changing facilities” in the future.

The repeal was signed into law by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, the former state attorney general who opposed HB 2 from the outset and unseated the former Republican governor last year in large part over political and economic fallout from the bathroom bill.

The new measure drew sharp condemnation from civil rights advocates, who saw it as a largely empty political gesture.

The move by the ACC was a hopeful sign for supporters of the repeal who hoped it would be enough to persuade boycotting organizations to end protests that cost North Carolina’s economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

“This compromise was a first step to repairing our state’s reputation and economy, and it’s encouraging to see the ACC put North Carolina back on its list,” Cooper said afterward.

In boycotting North Carolina, the ACC followed the lead of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which had made a similar decision a few days earlier.

The NCAA board is also considering a return to North Carolina, NCAA President Mark Emmert said on Thursday. A decision was expected in the coming days, he said.

In basketball-crazed North Carolina, the withdrawal of NCAA tournament games and the National Basketball Association All-Star game, which had been awarded to Charlotte, reverberated throughout the state.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Eric Meijer)

North Carolina lawmakers reach deal to repeal transgender bathroom law

A sign protesting a North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

(Reuters) – North Carolina Republican lawmakers said late on Wednesday they had reached a deal to repeal the state’s controversial law prohibiting transgender people from using restrooms in accordance with their gender identities.

The compromise, reached with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and set to go before the legislature for a vote Thursday morning, would still ban local municipalities, schools and others from regulating bathroom access.

It would also effectively forbid cities from offering their own job and restroom protections to vulnerable groups for nearly four years.

“Compromise requires give and take from all sides, and we are pleased this proposal fully protects bathroom safety and privacy,” the state’s top Republican lawmakers, Senate leader Phil Berger and House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore, said in a statement released late Wednesday.

The pair announced the deal at an impromptu news conference.

The compromise with Cooper, a staunch opponent of the bathroom law, was reached hours before the state was reportedly set to lose its ability to host any NCAA basketball championships.

The college athletic association is one of numerous organizations to sanction or boycott North Carolina in the wake of the law’s passage last year.

Cooper said earlier this week that the measure could end up costing the state nearly $4 billion.

He said he supported the compromise. “It’s not a perfect deal, but it repeals House Bill 2 and begins to repair our reputation.”

But it remained unclear whether the compromise would be acceptable to those who believe North Carolina was unfriendly to the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

In an impassioned news conference before the deal was announced, several leading LGBT activists decried its provisions, including the bar on municipalities regulating employment practices and “public accommodations”.

“This is a dirty deal,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. He vowed to continue fighting North Carolina in court and in the public sphere if the new measure passes and is signed by Cooper.

On Twitter Wednesday night, San Francisco-based Levi Strauss & Co., which has publicly opposed North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, urged lawmakers to reject what it called a “backroom” deal.

(This version of the story corrects Griffin quote in paragraph 12, replacing “bill” with “deal”)

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

North Carolina in stalemate over bathroom law as NCAA deadline looms

FILE PHOTO: A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access adorns the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake/File Photo

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – North Carolina’s leading Republican lawmakers and Democratic governor hit a fresh impasse on Tuesday over a fix for a state law that restricts bathroom access for transgender people, putting lucrative hosting duties for NCAA championships at risk.

State Senate leader Phil Berger and House of Representatives Speaker Tim Moore held an evening news conference to announce a tentative deal to repeal the bathroom measure, which has spurred boycotts by corporations, conventions and concerts.

They credited Governor Roy Cooper with making the proposal, but the governor’s office quickly issued a statement saying no suitable compromise had been reached.

The stalemate came hours after a local sports official said the NCAA would not let North Carolina host college sports championship events through 2022 unless there are changes to the law commonly known as House Bill 2 by Thursday.

“If HB 2 has not been resolved by that time, the NCAA will have no choice but to move forward without the North Carolina bids,” Scott Dupree, executive director for the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance, said in a statement on Twitter.

He said a “contact very close to the NCAA” had confirmed the impending deadline.

Asked for comment, NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent referred to a statement by the governing body for U.S. college athletics last week on the one-year anniversary of the law. In it, the NCAA maintained HB 2 did not assure a discrimination-free atmosphere for events.

North Carolina is the only state that bars transgender people from using government-run restrooms that match their gender identity. The law also limits protection from discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A prior repeal bid failed during a one-day special legislative session in December.

By then, the NCAA had stripped North Carolina of championship events scheduled for the current academic year in protest of the law, including two rounds of this month’s Division I men’s basketball tournament.

The organization has said it would begin selecting sites this week for events through spring of 2022.

On Tuesday, Berger and Moore announced a deal that would repeal HB 2 and give the state the authority to regulate multi-occupancy bathrooms and shower facilities, which they said would safeguard privacy. But Berger told reporters they spoke with Cooper on their way to the news conference, and the governor denied making the proposal.

Cooper spokesman Ford Porter accused the lawmakers of a political stunt. He said the governor objected to a provision that he said would allow discrimination to persist by permitting people to sue over claims of their “rights of conscience” being violated.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Tom Brown and Bill Trott)

New Hampshire legislature blocks bill on transgender rights

File Photo: A man holds a flag as he takes part in an annual Gay Pride Parade in Toronto June 28, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By Scott Malone

(Reuters) – State legislators in New Hampshire narrowly blocked a bill on Thursday that would have prohibited discrimination against transgender people, including allowing them to use the public bathrooms that match the gender with which they identify.

Transgender rights are a politically charged issue in the United States. Supporters say bills like the one blocked on Thursday protect people who do not conform to their birth gender, while opponents say they could give cover to voyeurs and sexual predators.

The 187-179 vote by the Republican-controlled New Hampshire House of Representatives to table the bill without debate came one day after Governor Chris Sununu, also a Republican, said he had no position on the matter.

Many Democrats had supported the bill.

“With Sununu’s support, the bill, which was tabled by a slim margin, would be on its way to the corner office,” said Ray Buckley, chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. “His silence and apathy are a tacit endorsement of discrimination, and he will have to live with the fact that he denied many transgender people the freedom that is granted through equality under the law.”

A spokesman for Sununu whose father, John Sununu, was a New Hampshire governor and later White House chief of staff in the first Bush administration, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

This was the latest in a string of defeats for transgender rights this week. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a lower court ruling in favor of a Virginia transgender student after President Donald Trump rescinded a policy put in place last year protecting such youths.

A Texas Senate committee on Wednesday approved a bill that would require people to use public restrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.

That measure is similar to one passed last year in North Carolina, which sparked boycotts that are estimated to have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to economic concerns, analysts do not expect the Texas measure to pass the state House.

Despite their dominance in New Hampshire’s government, Republicans in the state legislature do not unanimously support the party’s national agenda. Last month state legislators blocked a bill that would have allowed employees in union-represented jobs not to pay dues.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Texas committee passes bill to curb transgender bathroom access

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 Jon Herskovitz

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – A bill that would restrict access to public bathrooms by transgender people was approved by a Texas Senate committee on Wednesday after hundreds of people lined up for a nearly 21-hour session on that legislation, which critics said promotes discrimination.

The bill would require people to use restrooms that correspond with the gender on their birth certificate, not the gender with which they identify.

It will now go to the Republican-controlled Senate where it is expected to pass. Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who guides the Senate agenda, has said the legislation is a priority.

Analysts do not expect the bill to make it through the state House of Representatives, where there is more concern about the potential economic impact of such legislation.

The bill, which focuses on a heated political issue in the United States, is similar to one enacted last year in North Carolina. That law prompted economic boycotts and the loss of sporting events that were estimated to have cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Texas Association of Business released a study in January in which it said that if the legislation were enacted it could cost Texas as much as $8.5 billion in the state’s gross domestic product and the loss of more than 185,000 jobs in the first year alone.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has challenged the survey and brought North Carolina Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest to Texas to rally support for the bill.

Nearly 70 businesses, including some of the state’s biggest employers such as American Airlines, sent a letter to Republican leaders this month asking them to reject the bill on the grounds that it would “legalize discrimination.”


Hundreds registered to testify, and more than 250 people addressed the committee. Some waited more than 12 hours while many bill opponents lined the corridors in the Capitol’s dome.

“At the core of this bill is privacy,” Republican state Senator Lois Kolkhorst, the bill’s sponsor, told the committee.

Almost all the testimony was against the bill while supporters said it would help prevent sexual predators from targeting women and children.

Chelsa Morrison, whose 8-year-old daughter Marilyn started third grade at a suburban Dallas school after a gender transition, choked back tears as she told the committee that her daughter was bullied and if the legislation was enacted it would be devastating.

Marilyn told lawmakers, “Trans people are real. You are looking at one right now. This bill is horrifying to me and all of my transgender friends.”

She said it would be embarrassing if she were forced to use the boys’ bathroom. “All we got to do is tinkle and get out. That’s all.”

Her mother said later in a telephone interview that Marilyn attended school in the latter part of last year for about a month, then left because of bullying and bathroom restrictions. She is now being schooled at home.

Lieutenant Governor Patrick has called the bill common sense legislation. “North Carolina was the tip of the spear,” he told reporters this week. “We will be next to pass a bill that focuses on privacy, a person’s privacy, and public safety.”

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa; Editing by Frances Kerry, Toni Reinhold)

NAACP calls for boycott of North Carolina over voting, bathroom laws

Cornell William Brooks, President and CEO of the NAACP, speaks at the 46th NAACP Image Awards in Pasadena, California, U.S. on February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok/File Photo

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People on Friday said it would not hold its convention in North Carolina and urged other organizations to boycott the state in protest of laws adopted by the Republican-led legislature.

The civil rights groups described the move as the first step in an economic boycott that could be expanded in North Carolina and replicated in other states that enact laws limiting voting rights and protections for gay and transgender people.

NAACP leaders asked artists, religious groups, educators and sports leagues to join the effort.

“If we demonstrate the power of the purse, then we will demonstrate the power of democracy,” the NAACP’s president and CEO, Cornell William Brooks, told reporters in Raleigh.

Brooks did not provide a timeline for a wider boycott, but the organization said an internal task force would explore it.

The NAACP said it was calling for the boycott in response to North Carolina laws such as House Bill 2, which bars transgender people from using government-operated bathrooms that match their gender identity and bans cities from setting a minimum wage above the state level.

The organization said state lawmakers need to create fair election districts that do not dilute the black vote and repeal a new measure seen as weakening the executive powers of newly elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.

“What has happened in North Carolina makes this state one of the battlegrounds over the soul of America,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the North Carolina NAACP chapter.

Conventions, corporations and sports leagues including the National Basketball Association already relocated events or halted new jobs planned for North Carolina after lawmakers passed H.B. 2 last March, costing the state more than $560 million, according to the online magazine Facing South.

So far, however, efforts to repeal the measure have failed.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, said Cooper should take a stance against the NAACP’s boycott.

“It’s time for him to show some leadership as North Carolina’s governor, condemn William Barber’s attempt to inflict economic harm on our citizens, and work toward a reasonable compromise that keeps men out of women’s bathrooms,” Berger said in a statement.

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Trump’s transgender move puts spotlight on Supreme Court case

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 Trump administration’s move on Wednesday to rescind guidance allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of their choice has raised the stakes for an upcoming U.S. Supreme Court case that could deliver a landmark decision on the issue.

The eight justices are due to hear oral arguments on March 28 on whether the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia can block Gavin Grimm, a female-born transgender high school student, from using the boys’ bathroom. A ruling is due by the end of June.

A key question in the case is whether a federal law, known as Title IX, which bars sex discrimination in education, covers transgender students. The Education Department under Democratic President Barack Obama said in guidance to public schools last May that it does, but the Republican Trump administration withdrew that finding on Wednesday.

The high court on Thursday asked the lawyers involved to file letters by March 1 giving their views on how the Trump action should affect consideration of the case.

Lawyers for Grimm say that the definition of sex discrimination in Title IX is broad and includes gender identity. The school board maintains that the law was enacted purely to address “physiological distinctions between men and women.”

If the Supreme Court rules that Title IX protects transgender students, the decision would become the law of the land, binding the Trump administration and the states.

“This is an incredibly urgent issue for Gavin and these other kids across the country,” said Joshua Block, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) who represents Grimm.

The Trump administration’s announcement “only underscores the need for the Supreme Court to bring some clarity here,” he added.

The administration on Wednesday did not offer its own interpretation of Title IX, with the Justice Department telling the court only that it plans to “consider further and more completely the legal issues involved.”

The administration is not directly involved in the case.

Lawyers for both Grimm and the Gloucester County School Board have urged the court to decide whether Title IX applies to transgender students rather than taking a narrower approach by sending the case back to a lower court.

In a court filing on Thursday, the ACLU said that, regardless of the administration’s position, the court “can – and should – resolve the underlying question of whether the Board’s policy violates Title IX.”

The school board’s lawyers made similar comments in their most recent court filing, saying that the meaning of the federal law is “plain and may be resolved as a matter of straightforward interpretation.”

But 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. That court’s April 2016 ruling in favor of Grimm relied on the Obama administration’s interpretation of the law.

Kyle Duncan, a lawyer representing the school board, said the court must at a minimum throw out the appeals court decision because “the entire basis for that opinion” was the no-longer extant Obama administration interpretation.


With the eight-justice court likely to be closely divided, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, conservative appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, could end up casting the deciding vote if he is confirmed by the U.S. Senate in time. Otherwise, the court, which is divided equally between liberals and conservatives, could split 4-4, which would set no nationwide legal precedent.

Clues as to how the high court could rule can be gleaned from its decision last August to temporarily block the appeals court decision in Grimm’s case from going into effect. That emergency request from the school board did not require the justices to decide the merits of the case.

The vote in favor of the school board was 5-3, with Justice Stephen Breyer, a liberal, joining the four conservative justices. Breyer made clear in a statement at the time that his vote would not dictate how he would approach the case if the court took the issue up.

That decision indicated that the court is likely to be closely divided at oral argument. Grimm’s hopes may rest in Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who voted against Grimm last summer but has sometimes sided with liberals in major cases, including several on gay rights.

But even lawyers closely following the case are not sure which way Kennedy could go.

“If I could predict that, I would be down in the casino,” said Gary McCaleb, a lawyer with conservative Christian legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, which backs the school board.

For graphic on transgender rights and “bathroom bills”, click:

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; editing by Noeleen Walder and Jonathan Oatis)

North Carolina’s bathroom law puts NCAA events at risk: official

transgender bathroom sign

By Colleen Jenkins

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Reuters) – North Carolina is close to losing NCAA championship events for six years at a cost of more than $250 million because of a law that restricts bathroom access for transgender people, a local sports official told state lawmakers on Monday.

The governing body for U.S. college athletics is reviewing bids to host events through spring 2022, including 133 from North Carolina cities and universities, said Scott Dupree, executive director of the Greater Raleigh Sports Alliance.

The law known as House Bill 2, which bars transgender people from using government-run restrooms that match their gender identity and limits local nondiscrimination protections, will doom the state’s chances, Dupree wrote in a letter.

“Our contacts at the NCAA tell us that, due to their stance on HB 2, all North Carolina bids will be pulled from the review process and removed from consideration,” said Dupree, adding he was sharing the information on behalf of the North Carolina Sports Association.

Asked for comment, the NCAA said it expects to announce its site selections for upcoming seasons in April.

The organization in September moved championship events, including two rounds of the prominent Division I men’s basketball tournament, from the hoops-loving state for the current academic year in protest at the measure.

“In a matter of days, our state’s sports tourism industry will suffer crushing, long-term losses and will essentially close its doors to NCAA business,” Dupree said. “Our window to act is closing rapidly.”

Adopted last March by North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature, the law prompted legal challenges, boycotts by corporations and entertainers, and the relocation of the National Basketball Association’s 2017 All-Star Game.

Supporters of the statute cite traditional values and a need for public safety, while opponents deem it discriminatory to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

A repeal bid failed during a one-day special legislative session in December.

Dupree’s letter prompted a new call on Monday by advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers for an immediate repeal to avoid further economic damage.

Senate leader Phil Berger, a Republican, on Twitter blamed the potential loss of more NCAA events on Democratic Governor Roy Cooper, who took office in January.

In a statement, he said Cooper would “have to work toward a compromise that keeps women from being forced to share bathrooms and shower facilities with men to move past this distraction.”

Cooper urged Republican leaders to put the issue to a vote, saying in a statement: “There is no time to waste.”

(Reporting by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker)