N.C. Officials Face DOJ Deadline To Change 'Bathroom Law'
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
The governor of North Carolina decides today how to respond to the Justice Department's determination that a new state law violates the Federal Civil Rights Act. That law, known as HB2, prevents local governments from banning discrimination against LGBT people.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The most controversial aspect of this law involves bathrooms. The law says government buildings, public schools and state universities must restrict bathrooms and locker rooms according to people's sex on their birth certificates. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory defended the law yesterday on Fox News Sunday.
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PAT MCCRORY: When you go into a restroom or your wife goes into a restroom, you assume the only other people going to that restroom or shower facility is going to be a person of the same gender.
GREENE: Now, passage of the bill was swiftly followed by economic repercussions. Entertainers like Bruce Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil canceled shows in the state. Corporations from PayPal to the NBA canceled or are reconsidering projects there.
MONTAGNE: And other states and cities banned official travel to North Carolina. Despite the pressure, Dallas Woodhouse, as head of the North Carolina Republican Party told the state's convention over the weekend that North Carolina should stand firm.
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DALLAS WOODHOUSE: If this bathroom thing needs to be tweaked a little bit, it's going to be. But this legislature will remain strong on protecting the rights of parents to feel comfortable sending their children into public restrooms.
MONTAGNE: And let's hear now from one of the sponsors of HB2, Paul Stam. Good morning.
PAUL STAM: Good morning.
MONTAGNE: Now, the governor has not said how he will respond to the Justice Department today, although we've just heard him sound pretty firm about the law as well. What do you expect him to do?
STAM: Probably - although, I don't have inside information - announce that probably the state will sue the Department of Justice for a declaratory judgment on this.
MONTAGNE: So basically fight this.
STAM: Yes. Well, that's what I would hope and expect him to do.
MONTAGNE: OK. The federal appeals court with jurisdiction over North Carolina recently aloud a transgender student to sue for discrimination for being required to use the bathroom that corresponds to his biological sex, pretty much the same thing that HB2 requires. Do you worry that the federal courts won't hold out much hope for North Carolina's position?
STAM: Well, five courts have held the other way. This particular one is still on appeal to the Fourth Circuit. If you read the opinion, it begins with a logical fallacy identified by Aristotle 2,500 years ago, and it's an absurd opinion. I hope you'll read it.
MONTAGNE: You know, the other possible outcome though of this is that the federal government could decide to withhold billions of dollars in funding for public schools and state universities. How would North Carolina make that up?
STAM: To put that in context, that would take years for that process to unwind. And after the process is finished, the state or any other academic institution would have 30 days to comply. So the idea that this is some imminent threat is an empty one.
MONTAGNE: Well, another possible threat for North Carolina, which is a very popular tourist destination - it's also a state that has a lot of conventions come there, depends on them quite a bit. How much are you concerned that that part of your economy will be hurt?
STAM: It's an issue. But just last week, Site Selection magazine ranked North Carolina number one with Texas as the best place to go despite House Bill 2. We've just been named by the Census Bureau as the fastest-growing economy in the nation.
So these folks are going to have to do a little double take because if they boycott us, they'll have to explain why they didn't boycott Houston for the Final Four. And as far as cities, while there are a hundred cities with a Obama-type bathroom ordinance, that means there are 10,000 cities that don't. So they're going to have a real tough time finding a place that will suit them.
MONTAGNE: Still, in all, at least one member of the general assembly - he's a Democrat, Larry Bell - said he now regrets voting for HB2. Do you think the assembly should consider changing anything in the law?
STAM: As far as the Obama administration threats, those issues no, nothing will be changed. There's some - a couple of sentences that have nothing to do with the Department of Justice - they didn't even cite a couple of the issues that might be possibly tweaked but has nothing to do with the Department of Justice.
And I need to put their threats in perspective. They didn't just threaten on Title IX. They also threatened on Title VII, the Equal Employment Opportunity Civil Rights Act, which affects 80 percent of the employees nationwide. So this is no longer a threat against North Carolina.
Every business in the nation that employs more than 15 people is under threat if they don't adopt this bathroom policy that the federal government will sue them because virtually all of them have the same bathroom policies as the state of North Carolina does.
MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for your time.
STAM: Thank you.
MONTAGNE: Rep. Paul Stam was one of the sponsors of HB2 in the North Carolina General Assembly. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.