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Federal suit against HB 2 amended and re-filed

HB 142 and Gov. Cooper now on defense against two new plaintiffs

RALEIGH, N.C. — The bathroom bill saga continues with a newly-amended federal lawsuit filed Friday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of North Carolina and Lambda Legal. The case formerly known as Carcaño v. McCrory has become Carcaño v. Cooper, and now targets House Bill 142, the controversial descendant of the notorious HB 2.

As a new defendant in the suit, Gov. Roy Cooper has stayed true to form in releasing meticulous and concise public responses to this issue.

“The Governor’s ultimate goal is statewide LGBT protections and he is going to continue working toward that,” spokesman Ford Porter said in a statement.

However, some LGBTQ community members and advocates criticized Cooper from the moment of HB 142’s inception. Randy Riddle, an activist and now-former Democrat, wrote a letter to the governor just after the law was passed.

“I’ve seen, first hand, violence and discrimination against LGBTs, promulgated because you and others like you were simply afraid to do what was right,” Riddle wrote. “How many other liberals and progressives in NC, come the next election, are just going to stay home, saying, ‘There’s just no difference between Democrats and Republicans, so why bother? Look at what Roy Cooper did with HB2!'”

HB2 was repealed in March and replaced with HB 142, a similar law that did little to pacify LGBTQ advocates. The law’s moratorium on nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ citizens through December 2020 is one provision most frequently condemned.

Some activists argue that another provision is still worse; HB 142 also prevents local municipalities from influencing bathroom access, leaving this privilege in the hands of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA).

The brief filed to amend the lawsuit quotes conservative legislators who had refused to repeal HB 2, and then proceeded to pass HB 142.

“The bill clearly states that city councils like Charlotte and other government entities cannot regulate access of multiple occupancy restrooms, showers, or changing facilities,” wrote Rep. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon) on Twitter. “Only the N.C. General Assembly may enact bathroom ordinances… What this essentially means is that the restroom provision of HB2 remains.”

The plaintiffs and their legal team argue that HB 142’s lack of protections falls far short of rectifying the months of public scandal that continue to haunt transgender North Carolinians after HB 2.

“After publicly vilifying transgender people for more than a year, legislators can’t just abandon transgender people to fend for themselves in the toxic environment of fear and animosity that the legislature itself created,” said Lambda Legal counsel Tara Borelli in a statement. “HB 142 doubles down on many of the worst harms of HB 2 and leaves transgender people in a legal limbo where they remain uniquely vulnerable to discrimination… Transgender people face an impossible situation where no door leads to safety.  Anyone would find that intolerable.”

In addition to amending the claims and defendants of the suit, new plaintiffs have also joined the fight. These include Quinton Harper, 32, a bisexual man from Carrboro, and Madeline “Maddy” Goss, 41, a transgender mother from Raleigh. Although Goss’ legal documents reflect that she is female, she still fears public places in the post-HB2 social climate.

“I don’t have the option to use the men’s restroom, and I don’t have the luxury to not think about my safety every time I use the women’s restroom,” said Goss in a statement. “I know all too well what can happen to a transgender person in the restroom because a stranger won’t just let you be. It’s even scarier now that there is so much confusion about which restrooms I can use and I worry that I am not safe to use any restroom in North Carolina because of this discrimination.”