RALEIGH, N.C.—Those who have followed the controversy over North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (HB2), also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Accommodation Act, may be momentarily disappointed with the recent decision by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake to delay the federal court date set originally for Nov. 14. To be decided by Federal Judge Thomas Schroeder, the date, now slotted for May 2017, will determine the fate of a number of competing lawsuits between LGBT activists and Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration.
Initial disappointment aside, the delay may turn out to be a more positive decision than it first appears. The ACLU of North Carolina, part of a team of lawyers representing several transgender students at University of North Carolina (UNC), dropped its opposition to the delay. James Esseks, a lawyer with the ACLU, told Associated Press that the plaintiffs’ legal team agreed in order to allow more time for the 4th Circuit court to consider their appeal.
This appeal asks that the recent injunction against implementing anti-transgender bathroom mandates apply not only to the individual plaintiffs, but to all transgender-identifying residents of North Carolina. The injunction, granted by Schroeder earlier in September, prevents UNC from requiring students to use the bathroom and changing facilities consistent with their birth sex.
Ultimately, the motivation for the delay is significant in the broader context of LGBT rights nationwide, rather than in North Carolina alone. The United States Supreme Court is currently considering whether to hear a case similar to the HB2 debacle; the case in question concerns a transgender Virginia high school student fighting for the right to use the public school restrooms consistent with his gender identity.
If the Supreme Court decides to hear the Virginia case, the question of transgender rights will be settled in the highest court of the nation. SCOTUS’ decision could affect the outcome of the HB2 federal court cases, therefore the delay is both reasonable and potentially hopeful for LGBT North Carolinians and allies.
In the meantime, news sources report that both plaintiffs and defendants of the North Carolina cases planned to come together to discuss the status of the case at a conference on Sept. 9 overseen by Peake, who granted the delay request. As of press time, no statements have been released about this status meeting.