RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A judge ruled Friday that two students and an employee must be allowed to use restrooms matching their gender identity at University of North Carolina campuses, and he said they have a strong chance of proving the state’s bathroom-access measure violates federal law.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder temporarily blocked the University of North Carolina from making the three plaintiffs follow the restroom provision of the so-called HB2 law as the larger case makes its way to trial in November. His final decision on the law won’t come until after that trial.
Passed in March, HB2 requires transgender people to use the restrooms in schools and many public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates, rather than their gender identity. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide antidiscrimination protections.
The state’s Republican leaders argue the law is needed to protect privacy and safety by keeping men out of women’s restrooms. Transgender residents challenging the law argue that restroom safety is protected by existing laws, while the North Carolina measure is harmful and discriminatory.
In his ruling Friday, Schroeder wrote that the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit “are likely to succeed” in their arguments that HB2 violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender in educational institutions.
However, he said they haven’t shown they are likely to succeed on a claim that the law violates their constitutional equal protection rights, and he reserved judgment on another constitutional claim related to due process.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which represents the transgender plaintiffs, and the U.S. Justice Department both argued for a preliminary injunction to block the restroom provision of the law. Defending the law are Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, Republican legislative leaders and a citizens group.
Several cases seeking to challenge or defend the law were assigned to Schroeder, while another case is pending in a separate federal court.