Students, parents file federal lawsuit in support of HB2

Another lawsuit has been filed in the battle over North Carolina’s controversial bathroom law, this time from a group of parents and students.

The group, calling itself North Carolinians for Privacy, filed suit Tuesday against the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education. The group is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom, an Arizona-based conservative Christian nonprofit.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, seeks a declaration that the federal agencies exceeded their authority by redefining “sex” in the Title IX non-discrimination law. The group contends that federal law does not forbid sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms, and that the federal government is bullying North Carolina by threatening to revoke federal funding.

The lawsuit is just the latest in dueling lawsuits over the controversial bill that requires people to use the bathroom of the gender on their birth certificate. The U.S. Justice Department and state officials this week sued each other over the law, known as HB2, making North Carolina the battleground of transgender rights in the United States.

Plaintiffs are identified only as students in the UNC system, students at elementary, middle and high schools in North Carolina and parents of minor children in the state.

“These students’ current and future educational opportunities, as well as their financial ability to secure an education at colleges within the University System, will be directly impacted if the federal government determines that the University System is in violation of Title IX, and so makes those students ineligible to receive this federal financial assistance while attending the University System,” the suit says.

The lawsuit seeks a judge’s order to put an end to the federal government’s threats to withhold funding from public schools and universities. At stake in the battle are $800 million for public schools and $1.4 billion for universities.

It suggests that the federal agencies have essentially rewritten the Title IX law, which does not include “gender identity” in the text or accompanying regulations. The word “sex” is used, which the lawsuit says refers to biological sex, meaning sex at birth.

ADF lawyers contend that the Justice Department has disregarded student privacy and safety by trying to force North Carolina to repudiate its law.

The organization’s website includes a video of female sexual assault victims describing how they would be tormented by and fearful of men coming into female bathrooms and locker rooms. The suit contends that allowing biological males into female restrooms places women at higher risk for sexual assault.

“The female University Students are deeply concerned that male students whose gender identity matches their male biology might take advantage of such policies for nefarious and lewd purposes,” the suit said. It further says that some of the plaintiffs object because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs regarding modesty and nudity.”

Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, issued a statement Wednesday praising the group for joining the fight.

“I applaud these parents and students for rejecting the Obama administration’s radical argument that school-aged boys and girls ought to share the same bathrooms and locker rooms as a condition of receiving their federal education funding – and instead standing up for their right to basic privacy and safety in our schools,” Berger’s statement said.

Also Wednesday, another group was speaking up for LGBT students.

At the Atlantic Coast Conference’s meeting in Amelia Island, Fla., representatives of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee urged the conference to take a stronger public stance against HB2.

Hudson Taylor, executive director of the group Athlete Ally, supported the action. “It’s great to see student-athletes banding together in the name of inclusiveness,” Taylor said in a news release. “We hope the ACC recognizes this is a serious matter that requires strong words and even stronger actions.”

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill