Joaquin Carcaño is a 27-year-old transgender Latino man and the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed because of a recently-passed North Carolina law known as House Bill 2. He has said it’s a fight he didn’t want to take up, and didn’t want to be necessary, but he demands that action be taken.
The law prevents cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination ordinances, which Charlotte and a handful of other cities in the state had passed in recent weeks.
Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican who was the mayor of Charlotte for 14 years, said in a statement, “The bill was passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette.”
HB 2 is considered a blow to gains made by the LGBT community starting with last year’s historic marriage equality Supreme Court ruling.
On Thursday, the University of North Carolina, where Carcaño works, announced it has chosen to follow the law.
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In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of North Carolina, Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina released a statement that reads, “It’s incredibly disappointing that the University of North Carolina has concluded it is required to follow this discriminatory measure at the expense of the privacy, safety and wellbeing of its students and employees, particularly those who are transgender."
The statement continues, "By requiring people to use restrooms that do not correspond to their gender identity, this policy not only endangers and discriminates against transgender people – it also violates federal law.”
The Obama administration is presently considering whether the North Carolina measure makes the state ineligible for billions of dollars in federal aid for education, transportation and housing. North Carolina receives more than $4.5 billion in federal funding for secondary and post-secondary schools, all of which is in jeopardy if it's determined that HB2 violates Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination – including discrimination against transgender students.
For the last four years, Carcaño, who is Mexican-American and was born female, has worked as an HIV project coordinator at UNC in Chapel Hill, specifically serving transgender women.
“These women face multiple levels of discrimination. I speak for them because I’m as an out trans man who has the support of my family, friends and colleagues," Carcaño told Fox News Latino. "I knew this ordinance would have a huge bearing on the LGBTQ clients I work with."
"I think of Blake Brockington who committed suicide last year. A black trans man who I knew, and we were impacted by his passing,” Carcaño said.
On behalf of Carcaño – as well as a UNC-Greensboro student, and a North Carolina Central University law professor – Lambda Legal, Equality NC, the ACLU and the ACLU of North Carolina are challenging HB2 in federal court. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina; the defendants are Gov. McCrory, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and UNC.
A special session of the state legislature was called for March 23 to consider HB2. Twelve House Democrats joined all Republicans present in voting for the measure. In the senate, the Democrats at the statehouse walked out of the chamber in protest, after which the Senate's Republicans unanimously approved the bill.
Advocates of HB2 say it’s necessary to protect the safety of women and children from “radical” action by the municipal governments of Charlotte, Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh.
“It’s common sense – biological men should not be in women’s showers, locker rooms and bathrooms,” said Rep. Dean Arp of Monroe, a Republican, before the chamber voted 82-26 for the bill. Gov. McCrory signed the measure that night.
“This isn’t about the bathroom. It’s a cover for backlash against the LGBTQ community and our need to feel safe,” Carcaño told FNL. "It’s very discriminatory. It’s painting LGBT people as a threat, that’s the tactic. Don’t be fooled – it’s not a bathroom issue."
The law prohibits people from using public restrooms that don't correspond to the gender listed on their birth certificates. In order for a transgender man to use a men's room, he has to change his birth certificate – which requires "a notarized statement from ... a physician licensed to practice medicine who has examined the individual and can certify that the person has undergone sex reassignment surgery."
Estimates of the number of transgender people who actually get reassignment surgery vary from 1 to 30 percent, but it's safe to say that the vast majority of people like Carcaño will not be able to use the restroom of the gender they identify with.
Prior to the passing of the HB2, Carcaño used a men’s room at UNC, and now he’ll have to find a suitable bathroom elsewhere, the lawsuit alleges.
Despite the legislature's actions, Carcaño says most people in the state do not support HB2. “There’s been a backlash from businesses in the community. People flying rainbow flags in support and protest of the bill,” he said. “You’re seeing a component of shame of the negative spotlight on the state.”
Carcaño has lived in North Carolina for four years since leaving his hometown in South Texas. “I’ve gone through the beginning of my phases of transition here. I wouldn’t have done that if I didn’t feel safe,” he said.
The current Charlotte mayor, Jennifer Roberts, who pressed to get the anti-discrimination ordinance approved in February, said she was appalled by the recent one-day special session, which cost the city $42,000. The special session was deemed necessary because the city's ordinance was set to take effect on April 1.
Without the special session, the legislature wouldn’t have met until late April.
“The special session won’t go unnoticed," Carcaño vowed. "We exist. We’re here, and we have value – whether or not people understand us. [This bill] is a direct attack on our day-in, day-out lives and the livelihood of the transgender community. I would like this conversation to be about cementing our place and identities. This bill is dehumanizing and gives people a license to hate.”
Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for FoxNews.com. She can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.