North Carolina was thrust into the national spotlight on March 23 of this year when Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law House Bill 2, which undid local nondiscrimination ordinances for LGBTQ people.
The N.C. General Assembly passed the bill earlier that day during a special session that was held in response to a Charlotte LGBTQ nondiscrimination ordinance. The Charlotte ordinance was passed in February and allowed transgender people to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
McCrory said in a statement following signing HB2 into law that the Charlotte ordinance violated basic expectations of privacy.
HB2 garnered significant criticism and resulted in state civil rights groups, two UNC-system employees and one UNC-system student filing a lawsuit against the legislation, saying it violated LGBTQ people's constitutional rights.
“But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina," Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender UNC-Chapel Hill employee and plaintiff in the lawsuit, said in a statement in March.
UNC-system president Margaret Spellings and UNC Chancellor Carol Folt both expressed concerns about how HB2 would affect student recruitment and create distress on campus.
HB2 became a focal point of ongoing disputes regarding Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based upon sex. The Obama administration has interpreted Title IX to include gender identity, which would provide protections for transgender students.
In May, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to the UNC system and Gov. McCrory, threatening to remove funding for public schools that do not protect transgender students' rights to use bathrooms matching their gender identity.
McCrory responded to the letter by filing a lawsuit against the DOJ. The DOJ filed a countersuit against McCrory, Secretary Frank Perry, the UNC system, UNC Board of Governors and the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
In September, McCrory dropped the lawsuit against the DOJ.
A federal court issued a preliminary injunction in August barring the UNC system from enforcing HB2 on the plaintiffs in the lawsuit — two UNC-system employees and one UNC-system student.
Then-Attorney General Roy Cooper refused to defend McCrory's decision to legalize HB2 immediately after the law was passed.
“This new law provides for broad-based discrimination, and we can avoid all of this by simply going in and fixing it, repealing it,” Cooper said in a statement in March.
As the 2016 election neared, HB2's economic impact was challenged and the legislation became central to the gubernatorial race between McCrory and Cooper. McCrory conceded the race to Cooper on Monday.
The U.S. Supreme Court is also set to hear a case about a Virginia transgender student’s right to use bathrooms matching his gender identity. The court’s ruling could create a legal precedence regarding the legality of HB2 and if Title IX includes gender identity.
The Court is expected to hear the case in 2017.
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