The stakes rose yesterday in a legal duel between North Carolina and the Obama administration over whether or not federal sex discrimination laws apply to gender identity. The fight may have national ramifications.
First, North Carolina officials defied a Justice Department ultimatum to rescind House Bill 2, a state law prohibiting local governments from enacting so-called bathroom ordinances, or face legal action and the potential withholding of millions of dollars in federal education funds. HB2 protects businesses and local governments from being forced to offer use of bathrooms and changing facilities based on gender identity rather than biological sex.
After attorneys for Gov. Pat McCrory answered May 9 with a federal lawsuit seeking clarity on the legality of the Justice Department’s demands, Attorney General Loretta Lynch quickly shot back.
In a press conference the same day, Lynch announced the government had filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina system of schools, and she compared the action to the historic struggle against Jim Crow laws in the segregated South.
A statement released from the governor’s office said that McCrory, in his suit, “is appropriately seeking legal certainty to a complex issue impacting employers and students throughout the country”—an allusion to the potential nationwide fallout of the Justice Department’s action.
“In contrast, the Attorney General is using divisive rhetoric to advance the Obama administration’s strategy of making laws that bypass the constitutional authority of Congress and our courts,” the statement said.
Of late, the Justice Department has begun interpreting civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex—Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and Title IX applying to sex discrimination in federally funded education—to also mean discrimination based on gender identity.
McCrory and other HB2 proponents have maintained the law is about public safety and the right to privacy in public restrooms and changing facilities, not discrimination against anyone.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) responded swiftly to news of the counter lawsuit.
“Today, President Obama and Attorney General Lynch proudly announced they will defy the Constitution’s careful separation of powers by creating a new law via press conference rather than legislative process. President Obama took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. Why does he refuse to follow it?”
Franklin Graham agreed, saying he is thankful for McCrory and other state legislators who stand up to the bullying and intimidation of the Obama Administration over HB2.
“Our president and his appointees aren’t supposed to be making laws and bypassing Congress,” Graham said. “That’s dangerous. I agree with N.C. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest who said yesterday that the Obama Administration is ‘obviously more concerned with its radical, leftist agenda than with the safety and security of our women and children.’”
John C. Eastman, a veteran law professor and the founding director of the Claremont Institute’s Center of Constitutional Jurisprudence in Claremont, Calif., says the Obama administration’s heavy hand toward North Carolina is “an amazing abuse of executive power.”
Eastman said the Justice Department has grown increasingly brazen. “This is effectively extortion. They are attempting to extort North Carolina to change their law based on the flimsiest of interpretations of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
“Language has meaning, and they are utterly distorting it” by applying laws meant to protect people from discrimination based on biological sex to also mean one’s perception of their gender, Eastman said. He calls it “an Orwellian manipulation of the language.”
“Quite frankly, the discrimination that is going on here is against women wishing to access a women’s restroom without men showing up in it,” Eastman said.
Graham called on Christians to pray.
“The case is far reaching,” he said. “It impacts every state and every family in our nation, not just North Carolina. Let’s pray for Gov. McCrory and all those fighting this battle for what is right. ©2016 BGEA