Dueling lawsuits over North Carolina’s HB2 law will likely go to trial around Election Day, keeping the controversial issue in the spotlight as voters prepare to cast ballots in the closely watched governor’s race. Yesterday US District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder issued an order saying he expected to hear the cases involving House Bill 2 in late October or early November 2016. Lawyers for all sides indicated to the judge that they would be ready.
Judge Schroeder also scheduled an August 1st hearing on the American Civil Liberties Union’s request for an injunction blocking the bathroom provision of the law that requires transgender people to use Government restrooms that are consistent with the sex on their birth certificate.
The judge asked lawyers to discuss ways to eliminate certain redundant parts of the cases with an eye toward consolidating them. Two lawsuits challenging the law and two defending it are assigned to Schroeder, who remarked that he wants to avoid “multiple, piecemeal considerations of the overlapping and closely-related issues.” A fifth case over the law is pending before a judge in a different court.
The cases have drawn high-profile supporters and critics. Nearly two dozen other states are fighting before two different federal judges to stop the Obama administration, which has issued guidelines urging schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity. Meanwhile, 68 companies signed an amicus brief recently supporting challenges to the law. The NBA is still considering whether to remove the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte over the lack of progress on changing the law.
During the legislative session that ended this month, lawmakers restored the ability of workers to use state law to sue over employment discrimination on the basis of race, religion and other factors — but left gender identity and sexual orientation unprotected.