Albany, NY - July 28, 2016 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that New York State is leading a coalition of ten states and the District of Columbia in challenging the blatantly discriminatory North Carolina law that limits the ability of cities and localities to protect the rights of transgender and non-gender-conforming people. Additionally, the coalition, along with two other states, filed a second court brief opposing the State of Texas's challenge to federal guidance allowing transgender students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
"The kind of divisiveness and discrimination encouraged by this law directly undermine the core values of this nation," Governor Cuomo said. "Just as in New York, this country's strength is found in our diversity and inclusiveness. At a time when so many are seeking to create rifts that separate Americans from one another, it is our responsibility to fight back and do all we can to bring this nation closer together."
"Transgender people deserve to live with dignity, free from discrimination," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "New York knows firsthand that forcing transgender students and workers to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identities is unnecessary, unworkable, and undermines the core American ideal of equal justice under law. My office will keep fighting every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection of the law for all Americans."
North Carolina's Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, also known as North Carolina H.B.2, was enacted in March 2016 in reaction to a nondiscrimination ordinance in the city of Charlotte, which included protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The North Carolina law mandates that local boards of education and public agencies require single-sex, multiple-occupancy bathrooms or changing facilities to be designated for use by—and used only by—persons based on their "biological sex." The law defines "biological sex" as "the physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person's birth certificate."
In response to the discriminatory law, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order in March banning non-essential state travel to North Carolina. Attorney General Schneiderman also banned non-essential travel by Office of the Attorney General staff to North Carolina. In May, the United States sued North Carolina, its Governor, the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, the University of North Carolina, and the UNC Board of Governors, alleging that implementation and enforcement of H.B. 2 would violate three federal antidiscrimination statutes. New York and its coalition filed this brief in support of the United States suit, arguing that the experience of the states shows that the North Carolina law is not needed to protect safety and privacy rights, and the law instead will cause unjustified and unnecessary harm to transgender people.
New York is joined by nine other states in the brief including: Washington, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont, and the District of Columbia.
This coalition was also joined by New Hampshire and Delaware in filing a second friend-of-the-court brief opposing the State of Texas's challenge to federal guidance that allows transgender students to use single-sex multiple-occupancy facilities consistent with their gender identity.
In May 2016, Texas and several other states filed suit in federal court challenging federal guidelines that direct public schools to allow individuals to use facilities that align with their gender identity. According to the federal Departments of Education and Justice, which issued the guidelines under a statute that extends federal antidiscrimination law to educational programs that receive federal funding, the guidelines are intended to ensure that "transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment." While Texas claims that the federal guidance poses a risk to the safety of the public, the coalition's brief again argues that no such harm has been demonstrated and that without this federal guidance, transgender people will be at risk of unjustified and unnecessary harm.