Virginia’s transgender case on the mind of judge hearing HB2 lawsuits

Gavin Grimm

Gavin Grimm AP Photo/Steve Helber, File

A federal judge who’s considering whether to block a North Carolina law governing transgender bathroom access wants to hear more from attorneys after the U.S. Supreme Court waded into a Virginia case.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder ordered lawyers to tell him how he should treat Wednesday’s Supreme Court decision. The court ruled that a Virginia school board could temporarily block Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old transgender male, from using the boys’ restroom at school.

North Carolina’s law requires transgender people to use the restrooms in public buildings that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates instead of their gender identity.

Schroeder heard attorneys debate the law Monday. Conservatives including the governor of North Carolina say the law protects privacy and safety. Transgender people and civil rights advocates argue it discriminates against them and that restroom safety is protected by existing laws.

The judge asked lawyers representing Gov. Pat McCrory how a transgender woman who had been born as a male could offend others in a women’s restroom that had separate stalls and no urinals.

“I’m at a loss as to the circumstances unless someone strips down naked,” he said.

He then asked if it would be better for such a transgender woman to walk into a men’s room dressed in female attire.

“How on earth is that supposed to work? So we are now going to have people dressed as women using the men’s room?” he said.

The governor’s lawyer, Butch Bowers, responded: “My guess is that some transgender people will use restrooms they always have and no one will notice.”

“They would be violating the law,” replied Schroeder.

“There’s no enforcement,” said Bowers.

“Then why have a law?” the judge asked.

Dawn Ennis contributed to this report.

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