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In NC, Heated Rhetoric Over Transgender Lawsuit In Virginia

scales of justice

A federal lawsuit involving a transgender high school student in Virginia is leading to heated political rhetoric in North Carolina.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory is criticizing state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, for not getting involved in the case. And North Carolina Senate leader Phil Berger put out a statement Tuesday that makes it seem like Cooper is in favor of "forcing middle school-aged boys and girls to use the same locker room."

WFAE's Michael Tomsic joined Mark Rumsey to sort through all this.

Would this case force young boys and girls to share locker rooms?

No. The lawyers representing the transgender student in Virginia were explicit in their court arguments, saying, "This case is not about whether schools may provide separate restrooms for male and female students."

It comes down to whether a transgender 16-year-old who was born female but now identifies as male can use the boys' bathroom. The student did that with his school's permission for about two months, but then parents found out and complained.

So what did the school board do?

It specified that students need to use bathrooms based on their biological sex, but it also provided three unisex, single-stall restrooms for any student to use for greater privacy.

A Virginia judge upheld that policy, and now the case is before a federal appeals court. The ACLU is representing the transgender student, and the Obama administration has filed a friend-of-the-court brief. Governor McCrory has said he'll sign onto an opposing brief filed by South Carolina's attorney general.

What's McCrory's argument?

That transgender identity is a complex issue best handled at the local level. He and Senator Berger have painted this as a federal overreach brought by the Obama administration.  

To be clear, the Obama administration did not bring this case. What his Justice Department did is file a brief supporting the transgender student.

The Justice Department's argument is essentially this: there's nothing wrong with separate bathrooms for boys and girls, but schools must permit transgender students to use the bathroom that's consistent with the gender they identify with.

Lastly, did state Attorney General Cooper explain why he chose not to get involved in the case?

His office did not, but his gubernatorial campaign put out its own rhetoric, saying: "McCrory has found another group to politicize. Adolescence is hard enough without being bullied by an elected official."