Trial over North Carolina law could happen close to Election Day

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Dueling lawsuits over a North Carolina law limiting protections for LGBT people will likely go to trial around Election Day, putting the divisive issue in the spotlight as voters prepare to cast ballots in the closely watched governor’s race.

U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder issued an order on Thursday saying he expected to try the cases involving a law known as House Bill 2 in late October or early November 2016, which is when lawyers told him they would be ready.

The judge scheduled an Aug. 1 hearing on the American Civil Liberties Union‘s request for an injunction blocking a key provision of the law that requires transgender people to use restrooms in many public buildings that are consistent with the sex on their birth certificate.

The judge asked lawyers to discuss ways to eliminate certain redundant parts of the cases with an eye toward consolidating them. Two lawsuits challenging the law and two defending it are assigned to Schroeder, who remarked that he wants to avoid “multiple, piecemeal considerations of the overlapping and closely-related issues.” A fifth case over the law is pending before a judge in a different court.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said it appears that Schroeder and the lawyers want a swift resolution, but there could be still be delays.

“It seems like everybody’s trying to deal in good faith and get things moving,” he said. “But you never know. There can be bumps, and all kinds of things can happen.”

The ACLU and Lambda Legal, which challenged the law on behalf of transgender clients, issued a statement saying they’re eager to have their day in court.

“Every day that House Bill 2 remains on the books, transgender North Carolinians suffer irreparable harm at work, in school, and in other public places, simply because they want to use public facilities safely just like everyone,” the groups said.

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