TAR HEEL VIEW: Courts should flush lawsuit challenging ‘bathroom bill’ repeal

North Carolina’s bathrooms are headed back to the courtroom.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina has revived its lawsuit challenging House Bill 2, arguing in an amended complaint that the compromise repeal signed into law March 30 constitutes discrimination against transgender people.

While HB 2 overreached and sought to insert big government into personal restroom choices, House Bill 142 fixed the problem. The ACLU’s lawsuit is flimsy, frivolous and deserves to be flushed.

Republican legislative leaders hastily enacted HB 2 to override a Charlotte city ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in restrooms, changing rooms and showers on both public and private property.

In other words, the city told Charlotte businesses they must allow transgender people to use the facilities where they felt most comfortable.

HB 2 required people to use the sex-segregated facilities matching the gender on their birth certificates in public buildings. Even though that law was unenforceable, with no civil or criminal penalties for violators, it touched off a year of scrapped business expansions, concert cancellations and bad press for the Tar Heel State.

Former Gov. Pat McCrory defended the law as a means to protect modesty. He lost the Executive Mansion to Gov. Roy Cooper, who called it blatantly transphobic.

Facing a deadline from the NCAA, which would have refused to schedule college sports tournaments in North Carolina for five years unless House Bill 2 came off the books, Cooper hammered out a compromise with Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore.

HB 142 imposes a four-year moratorium on local governments regulating access to restrooms, showers or changing facilities, preventing a repeat of the Charlotte ordinance that triggered HB 2.

It essentially pressed the reset button — returning our state to a time when folks made their own common-sense choices about where to answer nature’s call. That was good enough for us, for the NCAA and for most people without a dog in the fight.

The amended complaint says HB 142 is discriminatory, but it arrives at this conclusion by citing the misleading public statements of state Rep. Kevin Corbin and Sens. Danny Britt and Chuck McGrady. The lawmakers erroneously said transgender people who use the “wrong” restroom could be criminally prosecuted, though that wasn’t even the case under HB 2.

There is no discrimination in the compromise repeal, only a moratorium on city, county and agency-level restroom rules. It’s within the General Assembly’s power to preempt local ordinances. In a Dillon Rule state like North Carolina, municipalities are creatures of the legislature and have only the authority lawmakers choose to delegate to them.

Plaintiffs are transgender and gay North Carolinians who fear HB 142 could be used to deny them restroom access, but the complaint doesn’t say this has taken place. If they’ve suffered no actual harm, they should lack the standing to sue.

We hope federal courts reject this effort to overturn a reasonable compromise that prevents bathroom busybodies on the right and left alike from appointing themselves potty police.

The Wilson Times