Organized opposition to a controversial new law in North Carolina is taking shape, and university students and faculty and staff members are playing a leading role.
On Monday, three individuals, all of whom work for or attend North Carolina colleges, and two advocacy groups sued the state over the law, known as House Bill 2, alleging it violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying gay and transgender people equal rights.
Last week, North Carolina lawmakers gathered in special section to pass the sweeping legislation, which, among other things, forbids cities and counties from passing ordinances that extend protections to gay and transgender people. As a consequence, critics of the law say, cities like Greensboro or Raleigh cannot take legal steps to, say, prevent businesses from discriminating against gay customers or employees.
House Bill 2 was prompted by an ordinance passed in the state’s most populous city, Charlotte, that allowed transgender people to choose the public restroom consistent with their gender identity, rather than their gender at birth. After the bill was passed and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, Charlotte’s mayor, Jennifer Roberts, called it “literally the most anti-LGBT legislation in the country.”
Governor McCrory has sought to debunk criticism of the law, saying, for instance, that it does not remove protections for any North Carolina residents. Critics have said assurances like that are patently false.
The three individual plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed on Monday in a federal court, are Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender employee at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Payton Grey McGarry, a transgender student at UNC’s Greensboro campus; and Angela Gilmore, a lesbian who is a professor and an associate dean at North Carolina Central University School of Law. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and the nonprofit group Equality North Carolina are also plaintiffs.
“H.B. 2 was motivated by an intent to treat LGBT people differently, and worse, than other people,” the lawsuit reads, in part, “including by stripping them of the protections afforded by the City of Charlotte’s Ordinance and precluding any local government from taking action to protect LGBT people against discrimination.”
Also on Monday, more than 50 Chapel Hill faculty members released a statement on Facebook condemning the law. (The statement clarified that professors were not speaking for the university.)
“The recently passed House Bill 2 makes it impossible for UNC-Chapel Hill and its surrounding communities to protect valued faculty, staff, and students from discrimination simply because of who they are,” the statement reads, adding that the law will make it difficult for the campus to attract the best professors, students, and staff.
According to the organization Campus Pride, Duke University was the first institution to issue a statement on the law, saying, “We deplore any effort to deny any person the protection of the law because of sexual orientation or gender identity.” Here is a partial collection of university statements.
On Saturday, the president of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, said he had spoken with Governor McCrory, and told him the association was committed to fostering an “inclusive” environment at sporting events. He added that he did not threaten to cancel any events scheduled to take place in North Carolina.