RALEIGH, North Carolina - Two transgender people and a lesbian law school professor filed a federal lawsuit Monday to challenge a new North Carolina law that blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules and requiring transgender students to use bathrooms assigned to their biological sex.
The three people, along with several civil liberties groups, wasted little time challenging the law, which was approved last week by the legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
The lawsuit comes just as Republican Gov. Nathan Deal announced his plan to veto a similar law in Georgia. That state had received heavy backlash from businesses large and small for its protection of discrimination.
The North Carolina law is part of a wave of state legislation nationwide aimed at limiting gay rights and regulating how transgender people use bathrooms.
Republican lawmakers wanted to overturn an impending Charlotte ordinance that allowed transgender people to use the restroom aligned with their gender identity. But the new law also prevents all cities and counties from extending protections covering sexual orientation and gender identity at restaurants, hotels and stores.
"By singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, (the new law) violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution," the lawsuit reads.
The American Civil Liberties Union, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina scheduled a Monday news conference in Raleigh to discuss lawsuit details.
Corporations have criticized the law, but McCrory and allies are defending it.
In addition to enabling transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity, the Charlotte ordinance would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state's largest city.
With the law, North Carolina became the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
Advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights say state legislators demonized them with bogus claims about bathroom risks. Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.
Lawsuit defendants include McCrory and the University of North Carolina system, where one plaintiff works and another attends college. The system's 17 campuses also must comply with the law.
Another defendant is Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat who has criticized the law and wants it repealed. He is challenging McCrory this fall for governor. Cooper is a defendant because his office defends the state in litigation.
Two plaintiffs - UNC-Chapel Hill employee Joaquin Carcano of Carrboro and Payton Grey McGarry, a student at UNC-Greensboro - were born female and now consider themselves male but have not changed their birth certificates.
The lawsuit says Carcano used a designated men's restroom at work and McGarry used a campus locker room without any problems before the law was passed. Using women's restrooms could cause them anxiety and fear, the lawsuit reads. Now they'll have to search for bathrooms in other buildings or at local businesses, according to the lawsuit.
Forcing McGarry "to use the women's restroom would also cause substantial harm to his mental health and well-being," the lawsuit reads. "It would also force him to disclose to others the fact that he is transgender, which itself could lead to violence and harassment."
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