Standoff: State, Justice Department clash over HB 2

AG Lynch/ Gov. McCrory

Standoff: State, Justice Department clash over HB 2
May 12
14:30 2016



With billions in federal funding now on the line, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of North Carolina are now battling in court over House Bill 2.

The Justice Department sent notification to State officials last week saying House Bill 2 violates the Civil Rights Act by restricting transgender individuals from using the restrooms of the gender they identify with at public facilities. The notice asked the State to confirm by 5 p.m. on Monday, May 9, that it would not implement that provision. If the Justice Department enforces the discrimination violation, the state could potentially lose $1.4 billion in federal funding for public universities.

Gov. Pat McCrory refused to comply, saying he didn’t agree with the Justice Department’s interpretation of “sex” among protected classes to include gender identity. The State now has a lawsuit ask-ing for federal courts to “clarify” federal discrimination law.

“The Obama administration is by-passing Congress by attempting to rewrite the law and set restroom policies for public and private employers across the country, not just North Carolina,” said McCrory.

In response, the Justice Department filed its own suit against HB 2’s restroom restrictions. U. S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the DOJ could still curtail funding to the Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina system.

“This is not the first time that we have seen discriminatory responses to historic moments of progress for our nation,” said Lynch, a Greensboro, N.C. native.  “We saw it in the Jim Crow laws that followed the Emancipation Proclamation.  We saw it in fierce and widespread resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.”

While private businesses and organizations can still make their own restroom policies, local governments and public universities are bound to HB 2. UNC President Margaret Spellings said public colleges must adhere to state law but will not enforce HB 2.

Much of the federal money at risk goes to Pell Grants, which would be felt locally, according to UNCSA Vice Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Ward Caldwell.

“Close to 29 percent of our undergraduate students relied on Pell Grants this year as part of their financial aid package,” said Caldwell in a statement. “The loss of federal funding would put higher education out of reach for many of our students, as it would for students throughout the UNC system.“

Jaime Hunt, direct of public relations at Winston-Salem State University, said that the loss would be even worse at the historically black university.

“WSSU receives a significant amount of funding from federal sources,” said Hunt.” The most critical impact to the institution would be if the federal financial aid our students receive were eliminated. About 57 percent of our students are eligible for Pell Grants and 90 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid.”

She added that WSSU receives $10.2 million in federal Title III funding and about $9.6 million in other federal funding annually.

The stakes could go wider than that. Federal funding for all levels of education in the state, which is about $4.7 billion, could be at risk. Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools received about $49 million in federal funds for the 2014-2015 school year.

Additionally, more than $5 million in federal grants from the Violence Against Women Act could also be lost, along with up to $108 million dollars in funding for NC Works, which connects jobseekers with employment. State and local governments could also lose $35-$65 million in federal contracts for violating a 2014 executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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