In response to the Department of Justice’s letter last week (see our previous blog post) regarding North Carolina’s HB2 law about transgender bathroom access (among other things), the Governor and Secretary of the Department of Safety filed a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment against the federal government, the DOJ, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Assistant Attorney General who penned the letter in question.
The Complaint seeks a ruling that North Carolina’s law does not violate Title VII. Interestingly, it also seeks a finding that HB2 does not violate the federal Violence Against Women’s Act, which was amended in 2012 to include transgender as a protected class. The Governor’s Complaint alleges that North Carolina’s implementation of the law does not treat transgender public employees differently from non-transgender employees. It argues that Title VII does not protect transgender individuals, but even if it did, it permits the state to accommodate such individuals through gender specific regulations in the workplace.
Hours after the Governor filed his lawsuit, the DOJ filed its own lawsuit against North Carolina. DOJ’s complaint follows up on last week’s letter and alleges that HB2 violates Title VII. From here, it is anticipated that both suits will move into active litigation.
Not to be left out, in Mississippi on May 9, the ACLU filed suit against the Mississippi State Registrar of Vital Records claiming that Mississippi’s Religious Freedom Act violates the US Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. The Mississippi law allows circuit clerks professing a defined list of religious beliefs to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The ACLU’s Complaint alleges that the law subjects lawful marriages of same-sex couples to a “separate and unequal” set of laws that only applies to them. The suit seeks an injunction to stop the law from going into effect on July 1, 2016.
For employers, this shows that the area of law regarding same-sex couples and transgender employees is evolving quickly and on numerous fronts.