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RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit announced yesterday that the full court would reconsider a September 2-1 panel decision that allowed the commissioners of Rowan County, North Carolina, to continue their practice of opening meetings with prayers that coerced public participation and overwhelmingly advanced beliefs specific to one religion.

With the grant of en banc review, that panel decision will be vacated, and all 15 judges for the Fourth Circuit will now review a lower court decision that found the commissioners’ practice unconstitutional.

“We’re very pleased that the full Fourth Circuit has agreed to review this practice that is clearly out of step with the First Amendment’s protection of religious liberty,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, which represents three Rowan County residents in a challenge to the commissioners’ policy. “When people attend meetings of their local government, they should not have to worry about being coerced to participate in a sectarian prayer that goes against their beliefs and being discriminated against by local officials when they don’t.”

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Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Supreme Court today announced it will hear a case brought by the Gloucester County School Board in Virginia that adopted a discriminatory restroom policy that segregates transgender students from their peers and bars high school senior Gavin Grimm from using the restroom that matches his gender.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of North Carolina, and Lambda Legal, the LGBT advocates challenging North Carolina’s House Bill 2 (H.B. 2), the state law that bans transgender people from the restrooms that match their gender, released the following statement:

“We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will affirm the sound decision from the Fourth Circuit and recognize the profound harms from rules that ban transgender individuals from using the restroom. For Gavin and other transgender students who are barred from using appropriate restrooms, every day these exclusionary and discriminatory policies are in place is extremely harmful. We will continue to fight H.B. 2 on behalf of transgender people across North Carolina.”

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Legal groups seek reversal of lower court ruling that left most transgender North Carolinians vulnerable

RICHMOND – LGBT rights groups challenging the North Carolina law that bans transgender people from using restrooms that correspond to their gender identity yesterday filed their opening brief on appeal requesting that the preliminary injunction in the case be broadened to protect all transgender people in the state from discrimination. In August, a district court issued a preliminary injunction preventing the North Carolina university system from enforcing H.B. 2 against the three individual transgender plaintiffs in the lawsuit Carcaño v. McCrory, which is scheduled for trial in May 2017. The advocates also asked the Fourth Circuit to expedite the appeal and schedule oral argument for January.

“Every day that H.B. 2 singles out transgender North Carolinians – whether at school, at work, or just moving through their daily lives – is another day that the transgender community is told that they are second class,” said Chris Brook, ACLU of North Carolina legal director. “Though the district court recognized the serious harm to three of our clients at UNC as a result of H.B. 2, that recognition unfortunately didn’t extend to the harms that law inflicts on other transgender individuals in public buildings across North Carolina. We hope and expect that the Fourth Circuit will expand this ruling to protect all transgender people.”

The appeal filed today argues that H.B. 2 violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because it specifically targets transgender people, and that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination. While North Carolina has argued that H.B. 2 advances interests in public safety and privacy, Lambda Legal and the ACLU argue that these interests, which can be protected in other ways, do not justify the harms H.B. 2 imposes on transgender people and that to restore the status quo, the court must grant a broader preliminary injunction while the case proceeds to trial.

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The ACLU and other groups have fought hard to ensure that every eligible voter in North Carolina is able to vote. It is more important than ever that you cast a ballot and make your voice heard.

Follow these five quick tips to make sure your vote is counted this November:

  • Get registered at your current address. Check your voter registration status by visiting the North Carolina State Board of Elections website or calling 866-522-4723. The regular deadline to register is Friday, October 14. You will also have an opportunity to register during early voting beginning October 20. NOTE: In response to Hurricane Matthew, the State Board of Elections has announced that applications with October 14 or an earlier date next to the signature will be accepted if they are received on or before Wednesday, Oct. 19. Read the SBOE memo for more details.
  • Same-day registration in effect. You will also be able to register, or update your registration, at polling locations during early voting hours. Note: You cannot register to vote at the polls on Election Day, Tuesday, November 8.
  • No ID required. North Carolina's unconstitutional voter ID requirement was struck down by the courts. Most people do not need ID to vote. Visit NCvoter.org for more details.
  • Be informed. See how your state representatives voted on civil liberties by reviewing our 2016 Legislative Report Card.
  • Vote early. Early voting runs from Thursday, October 20, to Saturday, November 5. Locate your polling place and note the hours of operation by calling the state Board of Elections or visiting their website.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Make sure that politicians hear your voice loud and clear this year by taking the time to register and vote.

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