- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A transgender high school student joined a lawsuit Thursday challenging a law that limits protections for LGBT people, just days after a federal appeals court sided with a transgender student in a Virginia case.

The state law enacted last month requires transgender people to use public restrooms and locker rooms aligned with the sex listed on their birth certificate, though companies are free to set their own policies. It has prompted a nationwide backlash, with PayPal and Deutsche Bank canceling planned expansions and several entertainers refusing to perform in the state.

The National Organization for Victim Assistance canceled plans to hold its annual conference in Charlotte in August. Many of its 1,000 crime victim advocates due to attend were barred from using taxpayer money as states and major cities boycott North Carolina, the group said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump said on NBC’s “Today” he believed transgender people should be able to use whichever bathroom they choose and that North Carolina’s law has caused unnecessary strife.

“There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said.

But the GOP front-runner said he opposed a push for new, non-gendered bathrooms open to anyone, calling it “unbelievably expensive for businesses and the country.”

Gov. Pat McCrory’s office declined comment on Trump’s view of the law. A spokesman for his re-election campaign said the governor disagreed with Trump.

McCrory believes “bathroom and shower facilities in our schools should be kept separate and special accommodations made when needed,” campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said.

The state law was challenged last month in federal court by two transgender people who work and study at University of North Carolina campuses, a lesbian law professor, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina.

Joining the lawsuit Thursday was Hunter Schafer, a 17-year-old junior at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School in Winston-Salem. She uses the restroom and lives in dorms with girls, but the North Carolina law would require that she use boys’ facilities, court documents said. Schafer could be exposed to harassment if the teen used facilities for boys, attorneys said.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond on Tuesday backed a transgender teen’s arguments that a Virginia school board violated anti-discrimination rules tied to federal education funds by forbidding him from using the boys’ restroom. The court’s ruling affects federal cases in North Carolina as well as Virginia.

Adding plaintiffs who are attending elementary or high schools could help the law’s opponents persuade a judge to halt the transgender bathroom access provisions of the law in public schools, said Maxine Eichner, a law professor at the University of North Carolina.

The appeals court ruling threatens the application of the North Carolina law in public schools and universities because they all receive federal funding under conditions that bar gender discrimination.

“A judge has broad discretion to issue an injunction that fits the wrong or injury that’s at issue, and here this allows the court to see the potential injury to a high school child,” she said. An injunction stops the law’s application while the overall case is resolved.

The lawsuit also added as plaintiffs a married lesbian couple in Charlotte. A fertility clinic canceled their appointment shortly after the state law was adopted, with a clinic representative adding it doesn’t serve same-sex couples, court documents said.

Their addition to the lawsuit bolsters its argument that the state law caused harm by blocking a Charlotte ordinance aimed at protecting LGBT people from discrimination, Eichner said.


Follow Emery P. Dalesio on Twitter at https://twitter.com/emerydalesio. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/emery-p-dalesio

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