- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

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.

“Bullies gonna bully,” Mr. Backholm said. “The idea that the federal government is going to stop education for children because they let boys into the girls’ locker room while they’re undressing? The public will not stand for that.”

He said the notion that Title IX, which is commonly associated with leveling the playing field for girls and women in high school and collegiate athletics, prevents schools from keeping men out of women’s locker rooms is ludicrous.

“They’re making stuff up. Title IX was created to give women legal opportunity equal to that of men,” he said. “Now, apparently, the Justice Department is trying to argue that Title IX makes it illegal for women to have spaces reserved only for women. There’s no rational way to say that that is consistent with the legislative intent of Title IX.”

Mr. Backholm said the Justice Department’s decision attempts to reinterpret a law worded as prohibiting “sex” discrimination to bar discrimination based on “gender identity” — despite transgender rights activists generally insisting on a sharp distinction between “sex” and “gender” in other contexts.

It is “completely inconsistent with any rational concept of the rule of law” and undermines the democratic process, he said.

“It’s somebody who doesn’t believe in the government of the people,” he said. “Because the government of the people was not willing to accept their interpretation of what gender discrimination means. And if you believe in the rule of law, that means you make the argument, you lobby hard, you get people elected — or, in this case, you just go around the legislative process, which is what they’re trying to do.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, encouraged the governor to stand up to the Justice Department’s “abuse of power.”

He said President Obama’s “hypocrisy” on the issue is stunning. He noted that the president could issue an executive order mandating transgender access to the restrooms of the opposite sex nationwide, but “hasn’t because he knows how unpopular it would be.”

“If the president won’t rein in the Department of Justice, then it’s time for Congress to do so,” he said.

Mr. McCrory’s office could not be reached for comment. Answering questions about the law in March, the governor said HB2 does not violate Title IX or put federal education dollars at risk. He cited a court ruling on a similar issue.

“Will this bill threaten federal funding for public schools under Title IX? No, according to a federal court which has looked at a similar issue,” he said.

The governor was referring to a federal court ruling in Virginia that said the Gloucester County School Board did not violate Title IX by prohibiting a transgender teen, Gavin Grimm, from using the boys’ restroom at his high school.

But that case went to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which last month ruled that the school board did violate Gavin’s Title IX rights. The school board has appealed the 4th Circuit’s decision.

The Justice Department order dovetails with a memo sent by the Department of Education in 2014 saying transgender students are protected from discrimination under Title IX.

“All students, including transgender students and students who do not conform to sex stereotypes, are protected from sex-based discrimination under Title IX,” the department said.

Gay rights groups praised the Justice Department for enforcing the federal anti-discrimination law on the basis of gender identity.

“The letter confirms what we’ve already known — HB2 is deeply discriminatory, violates federal civil rights law and needs to be repealed as soon as possible,” Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality NC, said in a statement. “We’ve already lost $500 million in economic impact and now we are violating federal civil rights law and risking Title IX funding. This is a travesty and embarrassment for North Carolina.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which has spearheaded a boycott in North Carolina over the law, urged Mr. McCrory to repeal the legislation.

“We commend the Justice Department for enforcing the rule of law and protecting the rights of North Carolinians,” Mr. Griffin said in a statement. “We once again urge Governor McCrory and the state of North Carolina to immediately do the same and fully repeal this harmful bill.”

North Carolina public schools have received $861 million in federal funding this academic year. North Carolina universities will receive an estimated $4.58 billion in federal funding, according to Department of Education projections.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Family Research Council released a 75-second video noting that Mr. Obama has “devoted five federal departments to investigate North Carolina with the threat of pulling federal funding from the state” before wondering, “Doesn’t he have better things to do?”

“So, while ISIS is infiltrating America, President Obama seems confused about human biology. While Russia taunts our military, President Obama is fighting for men to have access to women’s locker rooms. While Iran and North Korea fire ballistic missiles, President Obama is demanding grown men have the right to use women’s bathrooms.”

• Bradford Richardson can be reached at brichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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