RALEIGH – Today, Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of North Carolina, joined by counsel from the law firm of Jenner & Block, announced they have added three new plaintiffs - a transgender student and a married lesbian couple - to the federal lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s sweeping anti-LGBT law, HB 2.
Hunter Schafer is a seventeen year-old young woman and high school junior at University of North Carolina School of the Arts High School in Winston-Salem. Hunter was diagnosed with gender dysphoria in the ninth grade. By her sophomore year she was using the girls’ restroom and feminine pronouns, and that year was elected to the Queens Court. This year, because of her talent as a visual artist, Hunter attends UNCSA-HS where she stays in the girls’ dorms. Because of the passage of HB 2, Hunter could be forced to use the boys’ restroom, which would cause her serious anxiety and expose her to threats of harassment and violence.
"I just want to be able to concentrate on school, grow as an artist, and have fun while doing that," Hunter said. “I’m not a man. I have always felt more comfortable in the girls’ dorm at school and the girls’ restroom and using them has never been a problem. It’s humiliating and scary that there's now a law that would force me to go to a boys’ bathroom when I clearly don’t belong there.”
Beverly Newell, 45, a realtor, and Kelly Trent, 39, a registered nurse, are a married lesbian couple who live in Charlotte. As alleged in the amended complaint, Beverly and Kelly recently experienced discrimination first-hand, when a fertility clinic where they had scheduled an appointment called the couple to cancel the appointment saying that they do not serve same-sex couples.
“It’s unnerving to know that we could be turned away by any business for being a same-sex couple and have no recourse because of HB 2,” Beverly said. "HB2 has encouraged this type of conduct and we no longer have the ability to file discrimination complaints when this type of thing happens in our home city of Charlotte. The bill has made it OK to harm LGBT people. The state of North Carolina is better than this. "
“High school students like Hunter should be able to go to school to learn and thrive. She should have the same privacy and respect that every student in North Carolina has and she shouldn’t be treated differently simply because she’s transgender,” said Tara Borelli, Senior Attorney with Lambda Legal. “HB 2 is an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of our community, transgender young people. A law like this has devastating effects on transgender students who already feel vulnerable and alone.”
“Beverly and Kelly deserve to feel secure in knowing that when they go about their daily lives in Charlotte and interact with businesses open to the public, any discrimination they encounter is illegal. HB 2 robs them of that,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “This law gives people the green light to discriminate against LGBT people and sends a daily message that LGBT people across the state are not worthy of dignity and respect.”
The other plaintiffs in this case are: Joaquín Carcaño, 27, a UNC-Chapel Hill employee from Carrboro; Payton McGarry, 20, a UNC-Greensboro student who was born and raised in Wilson; and Angela Gilmore, 52, a North Carolina Central University law professor. The ACLU of North Carolina is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
In March, Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and the ACLU of North Carolina filed the lawsuit together as co-counsel in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. In the complaint, the plaintiffs allege that through HB 2, North Carolina sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state. The complaint argues that HB 2 is unconstitutional because it violates the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.
Photo of Hunter Schafer by Jess Rotenberg
Photo of Beverly Newell and Kelly Trent by Matthew Benham