Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Urges Federal Courts to Protect Transgender Individuals From Discrimination

Thursday, July 28, 2016
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LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that California has joined friend-of-the-court briefs in two cases supporting transgender rights.  The briefs challenge a recently passed state law denying transgender people access to single-sex bathrooms and similar facilities in schools and workplaces consistent with their gender identity, and support the United States in efforts to ensure that transgender individuals are protected against discriminatory practices that threaten their privacy and public safety.

California joined nine other states (New York, Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina in United States v. North Carolina and Carcano v. McCrory, supporting the United States and the private plaintiffs in these two related cases challenging North Carolina’s H.B. 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.”

Attorney General Harris also joined 11 states (Washington, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont) and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief in State of Texas v. United States, pending in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, to support the United States’ guidance that discrimination based on gender identity constitutes unlawful discrimination based on sex and that schools risk losing Title IX-linked funding unless they permit students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“This bigoted and discriminatory law targeting transgender individuals is a dangerous step backwards in the long march toward equality for all Americans,” said Attorney General Harris. “I urge the courts to strike down hateful and degrading laws that perpetuate fear and intolerance and to uphold policies—like those in California—that protect transgender people from discrimination.  I will continue to fight for LGBTQ communities to live free from prejudice.”

The amicus brief in the North Carolina cases argues that H.B. 2 undermines public safety by encroaching on transgender persons’ civil rights – often relying on invidious stereotypes – and exposing vulnerable people to hostile situations.  Likewise, the brief submitted in Texas asserts that anti-discrimination laws, like those adopted in California, have enhanced public safety, not detracted from it.  For example, California schools are required by state law to permit students to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity.  Los Angeles Unified School District (USD), San Francisco USD, Sacramento City USD, and Riverside USD have had similar policies in place for many years to protect the rights of transgender students and none of these school districts have reported any incidents or problems with the policies. 

Attorney General Harris has a longstanding commitment to ensuring every citizen, including LGBTQ Americans, are afforded equal treatment under the law.  In 2014, Attorney General Harris sponsored AB 2501 (D-Bonilla) to outlaw the “gay/transgender panic defense.”  She has filed multiple amicus briefs defending same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry.  In 2013, Attorney General Harris declined to defend Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in California. 

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic opinion in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which overturned the Proposition 8 ballot initiative, Attorney General Harris declared that every county in the State of California must recognize same-sex couples’ right to legally marry. 

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