Spellings on HB2: UNC System is 'caught in the middle'

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UNC president responds to lawsuits over HB2. (Gerry Broome)

UNC Systems President Margaret Spellings said Monday that in the battle between the state and the federal government over House Bill 2, "the University is truly caught in the middle."

On April 5, Spellings sent a memo to the 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina system that said the state's public university system will follow the state's new law, HB2, by requiring all bathrooms to be designated for use by people based on their biological sex.

READ SPELLINGS' LETTER TO THE DOJ (.PDF)

Schools may provide single-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities that are gender-neutral, Spellings wrote.

Spellings' memo noted that the new law doesn't address enforcement.

Now, the U.S. Education Department and other federal agencies could try to cut off money to North Carolina to force compliance with the Department of Justice's ruling that HB2 violates certain civil rights laws.

RELATED: UNC PRESIDENT: CAMPUSES MUST FOLLOW TRANSGENDER LAW

The state university system risks losing more than $1.4 billion. An additional $800 million in federally backed loans for students who attend the public universities could also be in danger if it's found that enforcing the law violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex. The DOJ letter to McCrory said the law also violates Title VII, which bars employment discrimination.

Read all ABC11 stories about HB2 here

"Earlier this afternoon, the University responded to the U.S. Department of Justice's letter dated May 4 by again underscoring the UNC system's commitment to full compliance with federal non-discrimination laws and inviting greater dialogue with the Department to resolve concerns it has expressed about HB2," Spellings said Monday.

On Monday, Spellings made note of the delicate balancing act the university faced to maintain compliance with federal mandates and state laws that are suddenly at odds.

"Our first responsibility as a University is to serve our students, faculty, and staff and provide a welcoming and safe place for all," Spellings said. "The University takes its obligation to comply with federal non-discrimination laws very seriously. We also must adhere to laws duly enacted by the State's General Assembly and Governor, however. HB2 remains the law of the State, and the University has no independent power to change that legal reality."

On Tuesday, The Board of Governors and its legal counsel will hold a special meeting of the Board, to determine "next steps."

Spellings also said that despite the Justice Department's decision to file an action in federal court, the UNC system plans to continue further discussions with DOJ about HB2.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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