Commentary

Surprise! Margaret Spellings disappoints in response to LGBT discrimination law

spellings-400cNew UNC system president Margaret Spellings has weighed in on the state’s new LGBT discrimination law with a memo addressed to all system chancellors. Not surprisingly, the memo, which foreshadowed its predictable conclusions with the bureaucratic subject line (“Guidance – Compliance with the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act”) does exactly what Spellings critics and skeptics would have predicted — toe the line laid down by the General Assembly and Governor McCrory. The memo specifically directs chancellors to establish restroom access policies in contravention of federal law.

In response, groups challenging the discrimination law issued the following response earlier today:

Groups Challenging HB2 Respond to UNC Position on Discriminatory Law

RALEIGH – The University of North Carolina system today announced that it has chosen to follow House Bill 2, a sweeping anti-LGBT law that would prevent transgender students, employees, and visitors from using the restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal, and Equality NC released the following joint statement:

“It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety, and wellbeing of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender. By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people – it also violates federal law.”

The Obama administration is presently considering whether North Carolina’s House Bill 2 makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways, and housing. North Carolina receives more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for secondary and post-secondary schools, all of which remains at jeopardy given the state’s policy of systemically violating Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination against transgender students.

“Not only does this policy fail to protect my rights as a loyal and hard-working employee and make it harder for me to do my job, it sides with ignorance and fear,” said Joaquín Carcaño, 27, a UNC-Chapel Hill employee and transgender man who is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging HB 2. “All I want is to use the appropriate restroom, in peace, just like everyone else. But now I am put in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I don’t belong and am uncomfortable or breaking the law.”

Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina are challenging House Bill 2 on behalf of Carcaño, as well as a UNC-Greensboro student, and a North Carolina Central University law professor. Also named plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Equality North Carolina and the ACLU of North Carolina.

The lawsuit argues that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment by discriminating on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and invading the privacy of transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.”

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