Federal judge grants HB2 injunction, but the conflict continues

UNC barred from enforcing bathroom dictates; appeal asks for state-wide injunction

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Aug. 21 found LGBT advocates celebrating a significant victory. Federal Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of the sections of House Bill 2 (HB2) most damaging to transgender citizens. The section in question requires that all people use the public restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the gender recorded on their birth certificates.

The “commonsense” defense over “safety” concerns, often cited by HB2 proponents as the motivation for the legislation, was found by the judge to be baseless. Schroeder wrote in his 81-page ruling that “the unrefuted evidence in the current record suggests that jurisdictions that have adopted accommodating bathroom access policies have not observed subsequent increases in crime.”

News of the injunction was met with immense relief by Joaquín Carcaño, the primary transgender plaintiff in the case.

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“Today, the tightness that I have felt in my chest every day since HB2 passed has eased,” Carcaño said. “But the fight is not over: we won’t rest until this discriminatory law is defeated.”

Schroeder’s injunction is effective until the judge hears all arguments in the clashing court cases that have been brought forth both for and against HB2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act.

However, the injunction itself is limited.

“Though the district court importantly recognized the serious harm to three of our clients as a result of HB2,” explained Lambda Legal senior attorney Tara Borelli, “that recognition, unfortunately, didn’t extend to a ruling rectifying those harms for other transgender individuals in North Carolina.”

Schroeder’s ruling applies only to the University of North Carolina and the three transgender individuals who filed the lawsuit. The plaintiffs’ legal team, including the ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block, announced on Aug. 29 that they plan to appeal to further protect all transgender North Carolinians.

“We are optimistic that HB2’s days are numbered and are appealing Friday’s ruling in order to bring relief to all those who live in or visit North Carolina,” Borelli said.

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Though multiple lawsuits have been filed, a single hearing to decide the fate of the law will be held beginning Nov. 14. However, Gov. Pat McCrory believes that the conflict related to HB2 will not stop there.

“HB2 is actually irrelevant now,” Gov. McCrory said in a recent interview with Marc Rotterman. The governor continued, “one of the best kept secrets of the United States too, is this is all going to the Supreme Court.”

McCrory refers to the exchange of lawsuits between the Justice Department and a number of states that have resisted the Obama administration’s directive to include gender identity under non-discrimination protections. These cases, according to North Carolina’s governor, will likely be decided in the nation’s highest court.

As for HB2, ACLU of NC legal director Chris Brook is more than hopeful: “We’re confident justice will prevail in the larger case after the judge hears all the evidence at trial this fall so that all gay and transgender North Carolinians will be free from the harm of HB2,” Brook said.

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