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Group questions Red Hat over legal brief on NC’s HB2

HB2: A timeline for North Carolina’s controversial law

North Carolina’s legislature passed a law that prevents transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The law — House Bill 2 (HB2) — has incited a state-wide civil liberties battle. Here is the timel
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North Carolina’s legislature passed a law that prevents transgender people from using bathrooms corresponding to the gender with which they identify. The law — House Bill 2 (HB2) — has incited a state-wide civil liberties battle. Here is the timel

A lawyer for a conservative think tank who appeared at Red Hat’s annual shareholder meeting Thursday to question the software company’s support of a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2 characterized his move as part of a broader effort to reshape public perception of the law.

Justin Danhof, general counsel for the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, said in an interview Thursday that he also intends to attend shareholder meetings of other companies – both within and outside of North Carolina – that signed an amicus brief in support of the U.S. Department of Justice’s opposition to the law.

“The largest takeaway of why we’re doing this is that the public narrative about H.B. 2 has really been wrongly focused, in our opinion,” Danhof said. “All you hear about is North Carolina and bathrooms, North Carolina and bathrooms. It’s about a much bigger issue than that.”

HB2, which the General Assembly passed in March, requires people in government facilities to use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates. The Justice Department says that is discriminatory because it singles out transgender people for different treatment.

Danhof said the Justice Department’s lawsuit in essence “asks for the ability to rewrite the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the ability to rewrite Title IX from 1972. And the Department of Justice just simply doesn’t have that authority.”

Instead, that’s the purview of Congress, he added.

“I can’t think that Red Hat, a software company, really wants the executive branch to rewrite laws” considering there’s a wholesale turnover of executive branch heads every four or eight years, Danhof said.

Red Hat spokeswoman Stephanie Wonderlick said in an email that, in response to Danhof’s questioning at Thursday’s annual meeting, company executives “reinforced the business reasons cited in our original statement about joining the amicus brief.”

That statement, issued when the amicus brief was filed last month, noted that the brief “supports the position that the law is discriminatory and stigmatizes transgender persons.”

“As we note in the brief,” the statement also noted, “‘diversity and inclusion are integral aspects’ of Red Hat’s operations and ‘critical to our ability to compete in an increasingly varied and global marketplace.’”

A total of 68 companies signed the brief, including Apple, General Electric, IBM, Morgan Stanley and PayPal.

David Ranii: 919-829-4877, @dranii

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