In what is considered a major, if temporary, victory in the fight against North Carolina's controversial HB2, also known as the "bathroom bill," a federal judge ruled Friday that the University of North Carolina would not have to adhere to the law that would force transgender students and employees to use the restroom associated with the gender on their birth certificate. Instead, transgender people on campus would continue to access the bathroom based on their gender identity.
After HB2 mandated that all publicly owned buildings, like those on the UNC campus, adhere to the law, the American Civil Liberties Union and gay rights group Lambda Legal – on behalf of transgender students and employees at UNC – requested an injunction, arguing that the "bathroom bill" was a violation of the campus' anti-discrimination laws; the university itself also promised that they would not enforce the law in May, leading to Friday's ruling from federal Judge Thomas Schroeder, the News & Observer writes.
Schroeder's injunction only temporarily prevents the enforcement of the law on campus. A November 14th bench trial regarding the law involving civil rights groups, North Carolina officials and the U.S. Department of Justice will ultimately decide HB2's fate, the New York Times reports.
"Today is a great day for me, and hopefully this is a start to chipping away at the injustice of H.B. 2 that is harming thousands of other transgender people who call people home," plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño, a transgender man and UNC employee, said in a statement following Schroeder's decision. "Today, the tightness that I have felt in my chest every day since H.B. 2 passed has eased. But the fight is not over: We won't rest until this discriminatory law is defeated."
"The UNC system has not changed its nondiscrimination policies and practices in response to the passage of HB2, and campuses have taken no action to prevent individuals from accessing facilities based on gender identity,” the university said in a May statement. "UNC campuses have long worked to accommodate the needs of students, faculty and staff from all backgrounds and to ensure our campuses are welcoming and inclusive for all."
In recent months, artists ranging from Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam to Maroon 5 and Ringo Starr have canceled North Carolina concerts to protest HB2, with other artists like Slipknot, Alabama Shakes and Animal Collective using gigs in the Tar Heel State to actively lobby against the law that discriminates against the LGBTQ community. The NBA also pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte in response to the state's refusal to revoke the "bathroom bill," transferring the annual celebration to New Orleans.