After being threatened by the Obama administration, Republican leaders in North Carolina are showing no signs of backing down from their stance on the state’s controversial “bathroom law.”
House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday that legislators won’t be meeting the Department of Justice’s Monday deadline to ditch House Bill 2, which regulates which bathroom transgender people are allowed to use. The DOJ sent state leaders a letter Wednesday saying that House Bill 2 violates the Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, putting billions in federal education funding at risk.
Those laws ban discrimination based on sex, but House Bill 2 applies only to gender and is designed to protect the privacy of the vast majority of people who prefer to use restrooms assigned to their biological sex.
“We will take no action by Monday,” Moore told reporters. “That deadline will come and go. We don’t ever want to lose any money, but we’re not going to get bullied by the Obama administration to take action prior to Monday’s date. That’s not how this works.”
Moore said state leaders are trying to determine their next steps. “Right now we’re talking with our attorneys to see what our options are,” he said. “We’re going to move at the speed that we’re going to move at to look at what our options are.”
Graham Wilson, a spokesman for Gov. Pat McCrory, said via text message that the governor does plan to have a response to the Justice Department order by Monday’s deadline. He did not offer further details.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest distanced President Barack Obama from the order in his news briefing Thursday afternoon. “These kinds of enforcement actions are made independent of any sort of political interference or direction from the White House,” Earnest said. “Those are decisions that are made entirely by attorneys at the Department of Justice.”
Democrats in the legislature said the Department of Justice order gives lawmakers plenty of time and should be addressed now.
“HB2 became law in less than 12 hours,” Rep. Cecil Brockman, a High Point Democrat, said in a tweet. “Five days should be more than enough time to decide how to clean up after it.”
Senate leader Phil Berger was less clear on what might happen – or won’t happen – before Monday. “Obviously there’ll have to be some response – you’ve got the deadline – but I don’t see the legislature, as the legislature, taking any specific response,” he said Thursday morning.
The Department of Justice takes issue with House Bill 2’s provision requiring transgender people to use the bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificate. The bathroom rule applies to state government facilities, public universities and schools, while private businesses are allowed to set their own policies. A letter to state agencies said that the law represents “a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender employees.”
Late Thursday, Gov. Pat McCrory’s office told reporters that the governor and state leaders would respond to the Department of Justice’s House Bill 2 warning by Monday.
“The Obama administration Justice Department is trying to hold North Carolina hostage, trying to hold students hostage, and that’s a really shameful approach,” said NC Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. “The decision of protecting women and children in bathrooms and locker rooms and changing facilities, there is no price tag you can put on that.”
Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement Wednesday, but didn’t specifically say what the state will do.
“A claim by the Obama administration charges that one part of House Bill 2, which requires state employees in public government buildings and students in our universities to use a restroom, locker room and shower facility that match their biological sex, is now in violation of federal law. The Obama administration has not only staked out its position for North Carolina, but for all states, universities and most employers in the U.S.
“The right and expectation of privacy in one of the most private areas of our personal lives is now in jeopardy. We will be reviewing to determine the next steps.”
One of the principle backers of the law, the Christian Action League of North Carolina, called on state leaders to hold the line in a message on Facebook:
“The battle over North Carolina’s common sense law, HB 2, has national significance. Must every state, more specifically, 28 other states, with laws similar to our own be forced to sacrifice their fundamental right to privacy and safety when using a restroom, locker room, or shower? That is the question of the hour.
“If this doesn’t make people righteously indignant, then our culture has lost any capacity for real moral outrage. We deserve exactly what we’ll get – confusion and chaos. Either truth is something evidential and verifiable or it’s purely subjective and determined wholly in the eye of the beholder.
“It is imperative the Governor and state lawmakers remain strong and fight the advancement of this misguided agenda. No federal law, approved by the people’s Representatives in Congress requires North Carolina comply with the Obama Administration’s demands.”
-Dr. Mark Creech