LGBT rights groups challenging the North Carolina law that bans transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity Tuesday filed their opening brief on appeal requesting that the preliminary injunction in the case be broadened to protect all transgender people in the state from discrimination. In August, a district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the North Carolina university system from enforcing H.B. 2 against the three individual transgender plaintiffs in the lawsuit Carcaño v. McCrory, which is scheduled for trial in May 2017. The advocates also asked the Fourth Circuit to expedite the appeal and schedule oral argument for January.
“Every day that H.B. 2 singles out transgender North Carolinians – whether at school, at work, or just moving through their daily lives – is another day that the transgender community is told that they are second class,” said Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina legal director. “Though the district court recognized the serious harm to three of our clients at UNC as a result of H.B. 2, that recognition unfortunately didn’t extend to the harms that law inflicts on other transgender individuals in public buildings across North Carolina. We hope and expect that the Fourth Circuit will expand this ruling to protect all transgender people.”
The appeal filed Tuesday argues that H.B. 2 violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it specifically targets transgender people, and that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. While North Carolina has argued that H.B. 2 advances interests in public safety and privacy, Lambda Legal and the ACLU argue that these interests, which can be protected in other ways, do not justify the harms H.B. 2 imposes on transgender people and that to restore the status quo, the court must grant a broader preliminary injunction while the case proceeds to trial.
“H.B. 2 makes transgender North Carolinians pariahs in their own state. Courthouses, airports, libraries, public schools, highway rest stops, police departments, state hospitals, and the very halls of government itself are now unsafe for, and unwelcome to, transgender North Carolinians,” said Jon W. Davidson, National Legal Director and Eden/Rushing Chair at Lambda Legal. “Such unequal treatment simply cannot be squared with the Fourteenth Amendment’s promise of equality under the law. The Fourth Circuit should order this broader relief, pending trial.”
The American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and the law firm of Jenner & Block are challenging the law in federal court on behalf of four LGBT North Carolinians in addition to members of the ACLU of North Carolina. The lawsuit, Carcaño v. McCrory, was filed days after H.B. 2 was passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed by Governor Pat McCrory. In it, the groups argue that H.B. 2 sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded to others, and that transgender individuals are expelled from public life since they are not allowed to use the restrooms and changing facilities that match who they are.