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Federal Judge Approves Settlement Resolving North Carolina's 'Bathroom Bill' Lawsuit


Transgender people in North Carolina can now use the public restrooms and state buildings that match their gender identity. A federal judge has approved a settlement in a long-running lawsuit over the state's so-called bathroom bill. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Transgender residents had sued over the 2016 law known as HB2 that required people to use restrooms matching the biological sex listed on their birth certificates. The controversial bill drew boycotts and protests at the time.


UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting) North Carolina sticks together. We won't do HB2. North Carolina sticks...

ELLIOTT: Now, the new consent decree says nothing in North Carolina state law can be interpreted to prevent transgender people from lawfully using public facilities in accordance with their gender identity. College student Payton McGarry, a transgender man, is one of the plaintiffs who sued, he says, to prevent the government from telling him how to live his life. He welcomes the settlement agreement.

PAYTON MCGARRY: To me, it means an acknowledgement that trans people are and should always be allowed to exist in public spaces as we are.

ELLIOTT: The consent decree that ends the protracted legal case was negotiated between plaintiffs and North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Republican legislative sponsors of the law had opposed the settlement. A sponsor of the bill, state Senator Dan Bishop, has not returned calls for comment on the deal. But three years ago, he contended the bill was about standing up to a radical transgender agenda. The bill was in response to a local anti-discrimination ordinance passed by the city of Charlotte. Here's Bishop at a 2017 legislative hearing.


DAN BISHOP: How should government balance a newly conceived idea about liberty to change gender versus rights of bodily privacy on a physiological basis where those two notions or interests may come into conflict?

ELLIOTT: HB2 was rescinded after the U.S. Justice Department said it was unconstitutional. But Republican lawmakers approved a replacement law that still prevents anti-discrimination ordinances at the local level. This new consent decree does not change that. It only addresses access to restrooms in state-run buildings.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR National Correspondent Debbie Elliott can be heard telling stories from her native South. She covers the latest news and politics, and is attuned to the region's rich culture and history.