which had offered a wide range of protections. Most notably, the Charlotte ordinance allowed citizens to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity. State lawmakers acted ostensibly out of concern that women and children could be victimized by sexual predators posing as transgender to enter women’s restrooms.
The Tar Heel State received almost immediate condemnation as state and local governments around the country began to weigh in. The governors of New York,Washington and Vermont halted most official state travel to North Carolina in response. The mayors of New York, San Francisco and Seattle imposed similar bans. Business leaders vowed to relocate their company headquarters and entertainers resolved not to perform in the state until the law is repealed.
The Department of Justice sent letters to both North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and North Carolina’s university leaders alerting them that the so-called “Bathroom Bill” violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The state filed a lawsuit against the DOJ in response, accusing the federal government of overreach and arguing that Title VII does not recognize transgender status as a protected class. “If the United States desires a new protected class under Title VII, it must seek such action by the United States Congress,” the suit said in part. It lists Governor Pat McCrory and other state officials as plaintiffs. HB2 is still in effect.
County boards also faced criticism before Election Day. (The governor, under state law, names five members to the state Elections Board, who in turn appoint the 100 county boards.) Some boards had passed rules which critics said shirked a federal court decision striking down a state voting law, including setting limited voting hours, limiting voting locations, and cutting Sunday voting altogether. The court ruled that a 2013 law discriminated against African American voters. Opponents criticized these measures as attempts to suppress black voter turnout.
“Federal courts this year have also struck down boundaries––political boundaries––both state legislative districts and also congressional maps because they describe them––they ruled that they were a legal racial gerrymander,” says Jeff Tiberii. “So at the heart of this, this is really about who’s going to control the state––Republicans or Democrats and where some of these powers lie, whether it’s the legislative branch or the executive branch.”