Transgender people in North Carolina may use certain public bathrooms as they relate to their gender identity, according to a settlement approved by a federal judge.
The settlement, approved by US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder, applies to buildings controlled by officials from the executive branch. According to CNN affiliate WRAL those facilities include most state offices in Raleigh, highway rest stops, and state parks and historic sites.
The settlement comes two years after North Carolina lawmakers passed a bill that replaced the state's original controversial "bathroom law." The revised law also faced fierce criticism from LGBTQ groups, which said it still allowed for discrimination against transgender people.
Several transgender people and civil rights groups had filed suit against state officials over the original 2016 law and their challenge was amended when the new legislation was passed in 2017.
"After so many years of managing the anxiety of (the original law) and fighting so hard, I am relieved that we finally have a court order to protect transgender people from being punished under these laws," lead plaintiff Joaquin Carcaño said. "This is a tremendous victory but not a complete one."
The settlement ends the battle over part of the lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union, a co-plaintiff, said in a news release. Judge Schroeder previously had found nothing in the law "can be construed to prevent transgender individuals from using the restrooms that align with their gender identity."
"Using facilities that match one's gender identity is a basic necessity for full participation in society, and this order's confirmation that transgender people can do so is an important victory," Tara Borelli, counsel for Lambda Legal, another plaintiff. "Being able to safely navigate everyday life when you set foot outside your home is not a luxury."
The ACLU said the settlement does not resolve the challenge to the lawfulness of original law for the period when it was in effect.
North Carolina was the first state to pass what we now know as a "bathroom bill."
The law angered many Tar Heels and civil rights groups and prompted businesses, entertainers and sports leagues to boycott the state.
The law probably cost the state millions through the loss of jobs, businesses, and consumer spending. But, even the top estimate would only represent a small fraction of the state's overall economy -- about $510 billion in gross domestic product.