North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory filed a lawsuit Monday morning, asking the federal courts to clarify federal law. The filing effectively buys him more time and challenges the Justice Department's move to rescind the so-called state "bathroom law."
“The Obama administration is bypassing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina. This is now a national issue that applies to every state and it needs to be resolved at the federal level,” said Governor McCrory in a statement. “They are now telling every government agency and every company that employs more than 15 people that men should be allowed to use a women’s locker room, restroom or shower facility.”
In his filing, Governor McCrory cited the fact that he has directed state agencies to make a reasonable accommodation of a single occupancy restroom. The state also allows private companies to set their own policies for bathrooms, locker rooms and shower facilities.
North Carolina's governor will meet a Monday deadline to either "remedy" the state's controversial bathroom bill or face losing billions in education funding and a federal lawsuit, he said Sunday.
The US Department of Justice set the deadline for Gov. Pat McCrory (R) in a Wednesday letter, writing that North Carolina's H.B. 2, which was drafted to block a Charlotte ordinance to let people use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identities, violated the US Civil Rights Act. In a separate letter to the University of North Carolina, the Department of Justice wrote the university system would be in violation of Title IX if it enforced the state law.
McCrory said Sunday that he will make a decision within 24 hours, but he criticized the Justice Department's time limit, saying that any actions he takes will be consequential for too many Americans.
"This is no longer just a North Carolina issue," he said in a Fox News interview, echoing his comments to the state's chamber of commerce on Wednesday. "This is a basic change of norms that we've used for decades throughout the United States of America, and the Obama administration is now trying to change that norm — again not just in North Carolina, but they're ordering this to every company in the United States of America."
The bill McCrory signed into law in March requires people use the bathroom that corresponds with the sex listed on their birth certificates, not the gender with which they identify. The law, the governor said, does not apply to all bathrooms in the Tar Heel state. He said it only applies to bathrooms in government offices, universities and road-side rest stops, according to Fox News.
But even those restrictions, the Department of Justice said, violate the Civil Rights Act and Title IX.
"The State is engaging in a pattern or practice of discrimination against transgender state employees and both you, in your official capacity, and the state are engaging in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII rights by transgender employees of public agencies," Vanita Gupta, the department's acting deputy assistant attorney general for its civil rights division, wrote in the letter.
Title VII, wrote Gupta, prohibits an employee from being discriminated because of his or her sex. According to the law, access to sex-segregated bathrooms and other workplace facilities is a "term, condition or privilege of employment."
North Carolina faces a tremendous loss of funding if the Justice Department's findings are upheld. The state is poised to lose billions in federal funding for its public schools and its 17 universities. State public schools received $861 million during this school year, according to The Charlotte Observer, and the University of North Carolina system received $1.4 billion in 2014-15.
These losses would be in addition to threats from corporations, musicians, and even the National Basketball Association to stop conducting business in the state.
Although McCrory said he disagrees with Justice Department's interpretation of its own laws, he declined to answer Sunday how he would respond to its letter. When pressed for an answer, said he is exploring "all legal options." One option could be a court challenge, Fox News reported.
McCrory's concern about the ripples of his decision is underscored by the fact that nine states have pending "bathroom bill" legislation. North Carolina is the only state to have signed the bill into law. Similar legislation failed in four states – Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia – and was vetoed in South Dakota.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that the University of North Carolina could be held in violation of Title IX.