Lawsuit challenges North Carolina anti-discrimination law

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Opponents of new North Carolina law blocking Charlotte ordinance hold news conference in Raleigh Monday

Opponents of a new North Carolina law blocking local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules and requiring transgender students to use bathrooms assigned to their biological sex wasted little time challenging the measure in court.

Three individuals supported by American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina filed a lawsuit in federal court overnight challenging the law, approved last week by the legislature and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.

Click here to read the lawsuit

The plaintiffs - Joaquin Carcano, a 27-year-old transgender man who works for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Payton Grey McGarry, a 20-year-old transgender man and student at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro; and Angela Gilmore, a 52-year-old woman identified as a lesbian and associate dean at North Carolina Central University School of Law - are suing the governor, attorney general, University of North Carolina and top UNC officials for violating the plaintiffs' 14th amendment right to equal protection under the law and for violating Title IX, which the suit argues considers discriminating against transgender people in regards to restroom use as sex discrimination.

"Because the threat of this bill that it presents to LGBT people and the whole of North Carolina is real, and it is immediate," Chris Sgro with Equality NC said. "HB2 is the most sweeping anti-LGBT bill in the nation, and it will not stand the test of time or the test of federal court."

McCrory's office issued a statement Monday afternoon.

"The governor respects the right of any legal challenges; however, he does not respect the continued distortion of the facts by the groups challenging this law and by many members of the state and national media," said Graham Wilson, the governor's press secretary.

"To counter a coordinated national effort to mislead the public, intimidate our business community and slander our great state," Wilson said, "the governor will continue to set the record straight on a common sense resolution to local government overreach that imposed new regulations on businesses that intruded into the personal lives of our citizens. The non-discrimination policies in place today in cities like Raleigh, Greensboro and Asheville and in every business in North Carolina are the same as they were last month and last year."

Republican lawmakers wanted to overturn an impending Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. But the new law also prevents all cities and counties from extending protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity at restaurants, hotels and stores.

Corporations have criticized the law, but McCrory and allies are defending it.

"Where was this coordinated outrage and media attention when the original bathroom ordinance was defeated in Charlotte just last year?" McCrory's office asked Monday in a statement.

NC Senate leader Phil Berger, (R-Rockingham), and House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) released a joint statement Monday afternoon reacting to the lawsuit.

"While they've accused the state of disrespecting local control, the irony is far-left groups like the national ACLU, their out-of-state lawyers and Attorney General Roy Cooper want to use North Carolina as a pawn in their extreme agenda to force women and young girls to welcome grown men into their bathrooms and locker rooms nationwide.

"This lawsuit takes this debate out of the hands of voters and instead attempts to argue with a straight face that there is a previously undiscovered 'right' in the U.S. Constitution for men to use women's bathrooms and locker rooms - but we are confident the court will find the General Assembly acted properly in accordance with existing state and federal law."

The LGBT advocacy groups held a news conference in Raleigh Monday morning to announce the federal litigation.

Carcano and Gilmore were among the people who spoke out for equality at the news conference, the restrictions unconstitutional and discriminatory. They also said they no longer feel welcome in North Carolina.

"I stand here on behalf of them as well - women who already face such violence and discrimination in their lives that being in the public eye such as I am right now would be a risk on their life," Carcano said. "It is scary, yes, but less so for me as an out trans-man."

He said members of the transgender community have probably shared a public restroom with you already, and they want to keep access to that and other safe spaces in North Carolina.

Gilmore added that she's worried because the law also prohibits municipal anti-discrimination ordinances.

"So I just feel that the legislature is out of step with what the public wants, and how the public feels," she said.

The ACLU of North Carolina is also listed as suing on behalf of its 8,500 members, as well as advocacy organization Plaintiff Equality NC.

The White House also weighed in Monday.

"This Administration is strongly committed to advancing the cause of equality for LGBT Americans and to ensuring that they do not face discrimination simply because of who they are or who they love," said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in a statement to ABC11. "Like so many others across the country, we are concerned about the potential harmful impact of this law, especially on transgender youth, and believe it is mean-spirited and sends the wrong message."

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