DOJ Warns North Carolina Its Bathroom Law Is A Serious Civil Rights Violation

*The following is an opinion column by R Muse *

The idea of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal rights for all Americans, although not difficult to comprehend, has never made any sense to Americans steeped in bigotry and religion. Over the course of the past century there have been several cases where some court or the Department of Justice has had to specifically include a category of Americans as beneficiaries of equal and civil rights under the Constitution. Apparently, the broad language of the 14th Amendment giving all Americans equality is lost on bigots and religious fanatics; particularly those governing in Republican states like North Carolina, among many others.

Once again the Department of Justice (DOJ) has had to step in and remind Republicans that when the Constitution says all Americans are guaranteed equal rights, it means all Americans. In fact, two years ago then-Attorney General Eric Holder had to direct the Justice Department to include gender identity,  including transgender status, as a basis for discrimination claims under federal civil rights law; Mr. Holder knew that Republicans are incapable of comprehending that “equal rights” means equal rights for all Americans and not just white Christians.

Apparently North Carolina Republicans never got the message that legalizing discrimination against gays and transgender people is a violation of the Constitution and various civil rights laws; particularly the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So the Justice Department sent them a not-so-friendly reminder.

The DOJ issued a stern warning to North Carolina Republicans that their new discriminatory law “restricting bathroom access” violates the civil rights of transgender people. That warning is not an idle threat or a suggestion; failing to abide by the Constitution can mean North Carolina will lose hundreds-of-millions of dollars in federal funds. The DOJ gave North Carolina until Monday to abide by their oaths of office and follow the Constitution.

The top civil rights lawyer at the Justice Department, Vanita Gupta, sent a letter to Republican Governor Pat McCrory saying, “both you and the State of North Carolina are in violation of civil rights law.” The DOJ gave them until “Monday to decide whether you will remedy these violations.” An official at the DOJ said that federal officials hope the state will comply voluntarily with federal civil rights law by “abandoning the discriminatory measure.” If North Carolina insists on violating the Constitution, the official said the DOJ has “a number of tools to force compliance including denying federal funds.”

Federal officials say they want to avoid a lengthy showdown between the Obama Administration and North Carolina evangelicals; especially over another Republican state refusing to accept that the evangelical bible is not the law of the land. It appears that there will indeed be a lengthy battle because Republican bigot Pat McCrory issued a response to being warned that North Carolina has to adhere to the Constitution.

The right and expectation of privacy in one of the most private areas of our personal lives is now in jeopardy. We will be reviewing to determine the next steps.”

McCrory was joined by president pro tempore of the North Carolina senate, Phil Berger, who lashed out at the Department of Justice and accused them of “gross overreach that deserves to be struck down in federal court.” Speaker of the House Tim Moore concurred with his bigoted cohorts and accused the Obama Administration of “unilaterally exerting its extreme agenda.” It is so typically religious Republican to claim that the civil rights guarantee ensconced in the U.S. Constitution is “an extreme agenda,” and that the Justice Department attempting to enforce a Constitutional law is “a gross overreach.”

The anti-gay religious measure known as HB2 was signed into law about a month ago and its requirement that any person using a public toilet must do so according to their biological gender at birth. According to common sense and the DOJ’s civil rights lawyer Vanita Gupta, that bigoted “requirement is facially discriminatory against transgender employees because it treats them differently from other employees.” Ms. Gupta continued that,

We have concluded that in violation of Title VII, the state is engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of Title VII right by employees of public agencies.” Many Americans and corporations agree with the Justice Department’s conclusion and cheered that the DOJ was taking steps to “compel” North Carolina Republicans to follow the U.S. Constitution, not their bible.

North Carolina state Representative Chris Sgro said, “I think it makes clear what we’ve known all along, which is that HB2 is deeply discriminatory and violates civil rights law in all kinds of manners.”

Matt McTighe, the executive director of an LGBT rights group, Freedom for All Americans, said,

HB2 is a solution in a search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist, and lawmakers must take immediate action to fully repeal it. The state’s economy and reputation have suffered enough, and now students all across the state stand to lose out on nearly $1 billion in critical funding because of HB2. The livelihoods of North Carolina’s families are at stake, and there is no excuse for inaction. Actions have consequences, and Governor McCrory and his legislative allies are now paying the price for this anti-transgender law that they so hurriedly enacted.

Mr. McTighe makes a valid point about actions having consequences, but like everything Republicans do, it is the innocent citizens and businesses in North Carolina that are, and will be, suffering the consequences of bigotry founded on religion; not Governor McCrory and not the evangelical Republicans who created a bigoted law. As McTighe noted, if the federal government is forced to withhold funds from North Carolina because it cannot accept the Constitution as the law of the land, it will be students, families, businesses and jobs that will pay the price of living in a state run by evangelical bigots.

As if to punctuate the DOJ’s assertion that North Carolina’s HB2 is a violation of the Civil Rights Act and Constitution, in Oxford Alabama the city council “rescinded an ordinance it just passed that “forbade people to use a public toilet that did not match their gender at birth.” The ordinance was repealed on the advice of the city’s attorney who rightly cited the illegality of the “bathroom law” under Title IX; another part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Still, it is noteworthy that the ordinance was rescinded on a vote of 3-2. Obviously two people on the Oxford city council still cannot comprehend that civil rights protections apply to all Americans.

Although it is not a novelty for a religious Republican state to forego the Constitution for a bizarre religious reading as the law of the land, this particular issue is a new low; even for evangelical Republicans. As noted above, HB2 is a “solution in search of a problem that simply doesn’t exist.” It is also noteworthy that these obscenities known as “bathroom laws” only affect women’s bathroom rights. There have been reports of women being stalked, accosted, and removed from public bathrooms by self-appoint citizen toilet-police and male law enforcement officers.

Despite the fact that several large corporations, the National Basketball Association, and a bevy of famous rock stars have boycotted North Carolina, and now the Department of Justice issued a stern warning, HB2 is not going anywhere soon. Republicans cannot exist without either a distraction from their ineptitude or devotion to theocracy, so it is doubtless that North Carolina will not meet the DOJ’s Monday deadline to “abandon this discriminatory measure.” And if it cost North Carolina residents hundreds-of-millions in federal funds, well that is just the price North Carolinians have to pay for electing evangelical Republicans who refuse to acknowledge that all Americans enjoy equal rights and that the Constitution is the law of the land; not some religious text.

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