North Carolina’s law cannot be used to deny transgender people entry to public restrooms, a court has ruled.
US District Judge Thomas Schroeder ruled on Sunday that “nothing in the language” of the current law bars transgender people “from using public restrooms and other facilities that match their gender identity.”
North Carolina has been a focus point for clashes over transgender rights, with Democratic Governor Roy Cooper signing a law, HB 142, restricting bathroom use in 2017 as part of a compromise with Republicans who had previously passed a more extreme law, HB 2.
Cooper’s compromise law banned cities from enforcing LGBT anti-discrimination ordinances before 2020, and maintained several softened measures from the previous law aimed at restricting bathroom access.
The case had been brought by the ACLU and LGBT+ law firm Lambda Legal on behalf of six named plaintiffs.
Joaquin Carcaño, lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, said: “I am relieved to finally have the court unequivocally say that there is no law in North Carolina that can be used to bar transgender people from using restrooms that match who we are.
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“For the past two and a half years, I have been unable to use restrooms in my home state without worrying that I will be subject to discrimination, harassment, or even arrest.
“Our community has faced so much discrimination because of HB 2 and HB 142, and this decision will give us more support to defend the rights and basic humanity of our community members across the state.”
ACLU of North Carolina Legal Director Chris Brook said: “By making clear that transgender people in North Carolina cannot be barred from using public facilities that match their gender identity, this decision lessens some of the harm that has been caused by these laws’ disgraceful and indefensible attacks on LGBT North Carolinians.
“The court’s decision does not account for the very real injuries LGBT people have faced under both HB 2 and HB 142, but we will continue fighting for the rights of all LGBT people in North Carolina as this case proceeds.
“The bottom line is that LGBT North Carolinians deserve to feel secure in knowing that when they go about their daily lives and interact with businesses open to the public, any discrimination they encounter is unacceptable.”
Tara Borelli, Lambda Legal Counsel, said: “In light of this ruling, there should no longer be any excuse for discrimination in government facilities against transgender students and employees, who are simply trying to get through daily life like everyone else.
“HB 142 and HB 2 no longer provide a fig leaf for denying transgender people equal dignity and access to public facilities on the same terms that all other North Carolinians can take for granted.”
HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: “Today’s ruling made clear that the discriminatory and poorly written HB 142 does not prevent transgender North Carolinians from using restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Despite this, the law—and the state —remain deeply problematic for LGBTQ equality.
“It remains impossible for city and town governments to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, including in public accommodations. What is needed and necessary for LGBTQ people is the full repeal of HB 142 and the enactment of statewide protections.”