RALEIGH, N.C. — The trial over a North Carolina law restricting restroom access for transgender people is being pushed back by several months, lawyers challenging the law said.
Magistrate Judge Joi Elizabeth Peake of the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted a request from the state’s Republican leaders to delay the trial while the Supreme Court considers whether to hear a Virginia case on transgender restroom access, according to a brief entry in the federal court docket.
James Esseks, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union on the team representing three transgender residents, said on Friday that the judge’s order meant that the case would be pushed to May from its scheduled November trial date.
A Justice Department spokesman, David Jacobs, confirmed in an email that the trial would be delayed until May.
North Carolina’s so-called H.B. 2 law requires transgender people to use the restrooms in schools and many other public buildings that correspond with the sex on their birth certificate, not their gender identity. Passed in March, the law also limits other anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
The state’s Republican governor and legislative leaders argue the law is needed to protect privacy and safety.
Transgender residents challenging the law say that restroom safety is protected by existing laws, and that the North Carolina measure is harmful and discriminatory.
The Republican leaders had asked the court to halt the proceedings while the Supreme Court decided if it would take the Virginia case, which centers on a transgender high school student who is asking officials to allow him to use a men’s restroom.
The transgender plaintiffs in North Carolina received a favorable decision when a judge ruled in late August that they must be allowed to use restrooms conforming to their gender identity on the University of North Carolina campuses.
They have asked an appeals court to expand the scope of the ruling to all transgender people in the state, not just those involved in the lawsuit.
Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court partly granted apreliminary injunction for three transgender plaintiffs, saying they have a strong chance of proving their arguments that H.B. 2 violates Title IX, a federal law prohibiting gender discrimination in educational institutions.
However, Judge Schroeder said the plaintiffs had not shown that they were likely to succeed with their claim that H.B. 2 also violates constitutional equal protection rights, and he reserved judgment on another constitutional claim related to due process.