President Obama’s Justice Department on Wednesday threatened to pull federal education dollars from North Carolina if the state does not repeal a law prohibiting people from using public restrooms of the opposite sex.
In a letter to Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the state’s HB2 law violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex in the workplace, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex in education.
“The Department of Justice has determined that, as a result of compliance with and implementation of NC House Bill2, both you and the state of NC are in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” Ms. Gupta said.
The agency said North Carolina officials have until Monday to address the issue, or the state risks losing millions of dollars in federal education funding.
Joseph Backholm, director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, said the Justice Department’s threat to cut education funds is a tactic fitting for a playground bully.
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The Obama administration is considering whether North Carolina’s new law on gay and transgender rights makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for schools, highways and housing, officials said Friday.
Cutting off any federal money — or even simply threatening to do so — would put major new pressure on North Carolina to repeal the law, which eliminated local protections for gay and transgender people and restricted which bathrooms transgender people can use. A loss of federal money could send the state into a budget crisis and jeopardize services that are central to daily life.
Although experts said such a drastic step was unlikely, at least immediately, the administration’s review puts North Carolina on notice that the new law could have financial consequences. Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina had assured residents that the law would not jeopardize federal money for education.
But the law also represents a test for the Obama administration, which has declared that the fight for gay and transgender rights is a continuation of the civil rights era. The North Carolina dispute forces the administration to decide how aggressively to fight on that principle.
The North Carolina law created a mandatory statewide anti-discrimination policy, but it did not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The law prohibits transgender people from using public bathrooms that do not match the sexes on their birth certificates.
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