We Went to Court over North Carolina’s Anti-Trans HB 2, and Here’s What Happened

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August 2, 2016

This post was co-authored by Simone Bell, Regional Director of Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, and Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal Senior Attorney.

We were in federal court in Winston-Salem, NC, yesterday morning to argue our motion for a preliminary injunction in our lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law, House Bill 2, Carcaño v. McCrory.

We filed this case in March with the ACLU, the ACLU of North Carolina and the law firm Jenner & Block and now represent six LGBT North Carolinians and members of the ACLU of North Carolina, but this was the first substantive oral argument in the case.

Paul Smith of Jenner & Block, who argued Lambda Legal’s Lawrence v. Texas case to the Supreme Court, argued this motion for our team. We urged the court to immediately halt enforcement of Part I of HB 2, which targets transgender people for discrimination, so that our clients and all transgender people in North Carolina can use public facilities safely.

The hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Schroeder lasted more than three hours, as he peppered both sides with questions.

Paul was the first to the address the court and he answered tough questions for an hour explaining the irreparable harm that HB 2 causes transgender people across the state. He dispelled the lie that protecting transgender people somehow harms the privacy and safety of other people.

We argued, with the help of the Department of Justice and counsel for school administrators from across the country who had filed an amicus brief in our case that, in fact, cities, police officers and schools around the country have consistently said that their efforts to protect transgender people from discrimination have not had any negative effect on the privacy or safety of others.

Given that our clients and transgender people across the state had been using public restrooms without incident and that there is absolutely no evidence of any increase in sexual assaults or problems in restrooms in states or businesses where nondiscrimination laws protect people who are transgender, Judge Schroeder pushed the lawyer for the Governor to tell him what problem House Bill 2 was created to solve. We also pointed out to the Judge that there are already laws that safeguard people against violence in public restrooms.

In the end, Judge Schroeder asked for more information before making a ruling on the motion for preliminary injunction, and both sides will submit additional briefs on Friday.

We don’t know when the Judge will rule on motion, but school is starting soon for many students, if it hasn’t already, and a trial on the case is scheduled to begin November 14th.

A little farther south, Mississippi’s anti-LGBT law HB 1523, is still on hold after Judge Carlton Reeves, yesterday, refused to stay an injunction he entered last month shortly before the law took effect.

HB 1523 would allow private businesses, individuals and medical and social services agencies to discriminate against anyone in Mississippi based on religious beliefs about marriage, premarital sexual relationships and conformity with gender identity stereotypes.

Referencing Lambda Legal landmark case, Romer v. Evans, in his decision, Reeves wrote, “[I]ssuing a marriage license to a gay couple is not like being forced into armed combat or to assist with an abortion. Matters of life and death are sui generis. If movants truly believe that providing services to LGBT citizens forces them to 'tinker with the machinery of death,' their animus exceeds anything seen in RomerWindsor, or the marriage equality cases."