The U.S. Department of Justice has notified the president of the University of North Carolina system that it is violating federal civil-rights law by following a controversial new state law that has drawn widespread criticism as biased against transgender people.
Margaret Spellings, the UNC system president, has said that she intends to comply with the new, widely criticized state law banning people from using public bathrooms and changing facilities that don’t correspond with their biological gender, but has said that “...it is in no way an endorsement of this law.”
A group of organizations, including the ACLU, issued a joint statement in early April saying, “It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety, and well-being of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender.”
“Public institutions are in a difficult position,” Carol Quillen, president of Davidson College, a private institution in North Carolina, told The Chroinicle of Higher Education's Sarah Brown in early April. “President Spellings likely did what she thought she had to do. She’s clearly said that she would not have wished for this law.”
“This law flies in the face of some of the values that we hold most dear here,” Quillen continued. “Strategically, I also think the law damages the state. North Carolina has an incredibly progressive education tradition, and I worry about the continuation of that legacy, given what seems to be blatantly discriminatory legislation.”
The far-reaching effects are particularly pertinent to the sports and entertainment landscape, as the NCAA has said that this North Carolina law discriminates against transgender people and that unless HB2 is repealed, they will relocate NCAA championships that have already been scheduled at North Carolina venues.
Pressure is being placed on the NBA to remove their marquee All-Star Game from Charlotte next year, and a host of prominent musicians have already cancelled concert appearances in the state.
Spellings looks to be wedged between a rock and a hard place. When the US Department of Justice comes knocking, you need to open the door.
The issue is just beginning to heat up, with the federal government intervening and making overtures that they might prosecute public university officials if they obey this state law. Stay tuned for further developments.