The AP reports that the Justice Department is dropping its lawsuit against North Carolina’s anti-trans “bathroom bill” in light of the state’s new replacement bill, HB 142.
HB 142 is touted by legislators as a compromise between Republicans and Democratic governor Roy Cooper, who opposed HB 2, and has already convinced organizations like the NCAA to resume business in the state. However, the bill continues to enable discrimination against the trans community, and everyone outraged over HB 2, the initial bathroom bill, should continue to be alarmed about HB 142.
“HB 2 was unconstitutional as of the moment it was enacted. HB 142 was unconstitutional the moment it was enacted,” Tara Borelli, a lawyer for LGBT civil rights organization Lambda Legal, told the AP. Her organization is challenging the law in The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. “We don’t think the courts will have any trouble seeing that, regardless of who’s sitting at counsel’s table,” she said.
Federal law protects against discrimination on basis of “race, color, religion, or national origin, or sex,” but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2016, Charlotte passed a law to ban discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, but Republicans responded by passing HB2, which prohibited local municipalities like Charlotte from including gender identity and sexual orientation in nondiscrimination protections. HB2 also required that people use public restrooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificate. The bill generated outrage and resulted in a boycott from businesses, entertainers, nonprofits, and even other state governments. It has cost the state 2,900 jobs and an estimated $525 million in business by the end of 2017, according to the AP.
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Faced by economic threat, lawmakers worked on a compromise. But it’s misleading to call HB 142 that. While the replacement law scraps HB2 entirely, doing away with the birth certificate requirement, it adds other restrictions: local municipalities cannot regulate the use of multi-occupancy bathrooms, showers, or changing facilities unless they are “in accordance with an act of the General Assembly” (the same entity that voted for HB2), and bars local governments from creating any anti-discrimination protections until 2020. It also fails to address what transgender people are allowed to do.
“It is a betrayal of the promises the governor made to the LGBT community and a doubling down on discrimination by Republican legislators who have backed it all along,” the Charlotte Observer’s editorial board wrote in a scathing critique of the bill. “House Bill 142 literally does not do one thing to protect the LGBT community and locks in HB2's most basic and offensive provision. It repeals HB2 in name only and will not satisfy any business or organization that is truly intolerant of an anti-gay environment and of a state that codifies discrimination.”