Judge: North Carolina must give transgender people choice of bathrooms

Judge issued temporary ruling on Friday that the school cannot block two students and an employee from bathrooms that match their gender identity

A federal judge, saying “time is of the essence” as the new academic year approaches, ruled on Friday that the University of North Carolina temporarily cannot block two transgender students and an employee from using bathrooms that match their gender identity.

One transgender rights organisation welcomed the ruling which affects but does not strike down what it called “a dangerous and bigoted law”.

US district judge Thomas Schroeder partially granted a preliminary injunction to the students and the employee in response to a lawsuit challenging a state law limiting protections for LGBT people.

“Plaintiffs contend that time is of the essence,” he wrote, “as HB2’s impact will be most felt as educational institutions across the state begin a new academic year. As a result, the court has endeavored to resolve plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary relief as quickly as possible.”

The judge said the injunction only applies to the plaintiffs, but said he also expects them to succeed in their claim that the law known as HB2 violates the federal Title IX law, which bars sex discrimination in schools.

His decision represents a win for the American Civil Liberties Union and the justice department, which had sued to block the law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled state legislature and has caused national controversy.

Artists including Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam cancelled concerts in North Carolina over the law and a number of leading businesses suggested they could sever ties with the state if it was not withdrawn.

Last week, the NBA announced that it would move its 2017 All-Star weekend from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, in Louisiana. In a statement, the league said: “While we recognise that the NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2.”

A spokesman for Pat McCrory, the Republican governor of North Carolina, said the basketball league’s decision was “another classic example of politically correct hypocrisy gone mad”.

Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, greeted the ruling. In a statement, she said: “This decision is welcome relief for anxious transgender students and their families, who can now be assured that they’re protected from a dangerous and bigoted law.

“Judge Schroeder rightly recognized that transgender people in North Carolina, and all over the nation, have been using restrooms that match their gender identity without issue – and that HB2 interferes with transgender people’s ability to work and learn and endangers their health.”

The judge’s final decision on the law will not come until after a November trial.

Keisling concluded: “The court’s logic applies equally to all public schools and other places where HB2 conflicts with federal civil rights laws. We’re confident that as this case progresses, the plaintiffs will prove that HB2 is illegal, unconstitutional, and should be completely overturned.”

Guardian staff and agencies

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