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Dueling lawsuits: NC and federal government go to court over HB2

U.S. Department of Justice files a lawsuit against North Carolina after Gov. Pat McCrory defied a DOJ deadline to not enforce HB2 on May 9, 2016. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- After months of protests and controversy, House Bill 2 has led to dueling lawsuits between North Carolina and the U.S. Department of Justice.

On Monday, Governor Pat McCrory asked a federal judge to clarify anti-discrimination law based on sex. The feds fired back with legal action of their own, arguing that North Carolina is already violating the constitution by adopting HB2.

"I do not agree with their interpretation of federal law," Governor McCrory said on May 9. "This is why this morning I have asked a federal judge to clarify what the law actually is."

Doing so, Governor McCrory defied a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) deadline to not enforce HB2. The law prevents transgender North Carolinians the right to use the restroom they identify with.

RELATED | DOJ files federal civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina over House Bill 2

McCrory said it's a complex issue.

"How to balance the expectations of privacy, of equality, in one of the most private areas of our lives," McCrory said. "We believe a court, rather than a federal agency, should tell our state, our nation and employers across the country what the law requires."

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is a Tar Heel native who made the DOJ's stance on HB2 clear, along with the threat of the loss of billions of dollars in federal funding.

"The legislature and the governor placed North Carolina in direct opposition to federal laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex and gender identity," Lynch said in a press conference. "What this law does is inflict further indignity on a population that's already suffered far more than its fair share."

News 13 spoke with Duke University School of Law professor Jane Wettach who explained the DOJ's legal stance.

"The Department of Justice has interpreted the term sex discrimination to include discrimination against transgendered individuals," said Wettach, who said the legal challenges echo what happened to state education funding when states refused to integrate black and white students.

"Years ago, we got desegregation of schools because the federal government withheld federal education money," Professor Wettach said. "That's how we got desegregation of schools."

RELATED | Locals weigh in on DOJ's lawsuit against North Carolina

The governor argues HB2 has taken on a life of its own and has crossed state lines.

"This is not just a North Carolina issue," he said. "This is now a national issue and an issue that imposes new law on every private sector employer."

The attorney general ended her news conference with a message to transgender Americans.

"Please know that history is on your side," Lynch said. "This country was founded on the promise of equal rights for all."

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