Columns

N.C. Governor: Congress Should 'Revisit' Civil Rights Act in Wake of Bathroom Bill Lawsuit

In this July 2, 1964, file photo, President Lyndon B. Johnson reaches to shake hands with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after presenting the civil rights leader with one of the 72 pens used to sign the Civil Rights Act in Washington. (AP Photo)

North Carolina’s governor said Wednesday that the Justice Department’s action against his state over the transgender bathroom bill is “an insult” and “a political statement, instead of a legal statement.”

Gov. Pat McCrory, who is also in a tough re-election campaign, filed a declaratory judgment action Monday asking for clarification of federal law as “the Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina.”

Later that day, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the DOJ would be suing McCrory, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, and the University of North Carolina. The lawsuit alleges violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA).

McCrory told CNN that the DOJ action is “an insult toward our state and 10 million people that has no relevance to this issue regarding whether a gender identity individual or a boy can go into a girl’s restroom.”

“To correlate that to the civil rights marches in the ’50s and ’60s is totally irresponsible of our chief legal officer of the United States of America,” he added.

Lynch said that “this is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation — we saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation; we saw it in the fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.”

McCrory added that “just three years ago, the president was against gay marriage — so I don’t remember her lecturing her boss on that issue.”

The governor called House Bill 2, which requires people use the restroom according to the gender on their birth certificate, “a very sensitive issue between privacy and equality.”

“We never have asked for a bathroom law. The Republicans have never discussed this. I have never discussed it in a campaign. It’s the Democrats in the far left that have brought up this issue of needing bathroom laws,” he said, referring to a “mandate of bathroom laws on all private sector entities” at the local level in Charlotte.

“I think this was an argument that we didn’t need to have in this country or in our state. But this is an agenda by the far left, and for some reason, the national media is saying the far right brought this up. I had no interest in this subject, but now that the Justice Department is basically making a civil rights claim that every private sector employer in the United States and every university in the United States must have gender expression or gender identity bathroom choices for individuals, and this is in the most — and this is not just in bathrooms. This is in shower facilities and in locker rooms or changing rooms.”

McCrory was asked if he’s making a transgender “child’s life much more difficult” by singling them out for a special unisex bathroom.

“I’m also worried about the other kids, that there’s an expectation of privacy for the other girls or other boys in their junior high locker rooms or shower facilities, that the only other people coming into there are the people of that same gender, built as the same gender,” he said. “And can you imagine the potential problem there? So, we need to work through these problems and not throw hand grenades at this issue, because it’s a new, sensitive issue on all sides, for families, for young girls and boys and for the transgender population.”

“But to have the civil — the Justice Department come out with a massive interpretation of the Civil Rights Act for every employer in the United States now is something that I think needs clarification by the federal courts. And, frankly, I think there’s a time where the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress need to revisit the 1964 Civil Rights Act and revisit all this issue, because these are complex issues.”