A federal judge on Tuesday approved a legal settlement granting transgender people the right to use restrooms matching their gender identity in North Carolina public buildings controlled by the state's executive branch.
The decree between the state's Democrat governor and transgender plaintiffs covers numerous state-owned buildings including facilities run by executive branch agencies that oversee the environment, transportation, and Medicaid, among others.
In return, the plaintiffs have agreed to drop pending legal action against the governor and other defendants.
The agreement was signed by Judge Thomas Schroeder after a three-year legal battle challenging North Carolina's so-called bathroom bill and the law that replaced it.
The agreement says executive branch officials, such as the current and future governors, as well their employees at state agencies, are forbidden from using the current law "to bar, prohibit, block, deter, or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities ... in accordance with the transgender individual's gender identity."
North Carolina's Republican legislative leaders, who passed the "bathroom bill" and its replacement, had opposed the consent decree.
The 2016 law, also known as H.B.2, required transgender people to use restrooms matching their birth certificates in state government buildings and other publicly owned structures including highway rest stops, schools, and universities. While that requirement was later rescinded, a replacement law halts new local antidiscrimination ordinances until 2020.
Republican House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger, who intervened in the case as defendants, had urged the federal court to reject the consent decree. Their lawyers argued that the plaintiffs were using the latest version of the consent decree to essentially resurrect arguments already rejected by the court.
They also argued the agreement overstepped the proper role of the court because it "purports to bind North Carolina State officers and agencies, in perpetuity, to a temporary political settlement."
Addressing the legislative leaders' concerns in a written order Tuesday, Schroeder noted that nothing in the agreement limits the legislature's ability to amend the replacement law "or pass any law it wishes."
Moore spokesman Joseph Kyzer said House lawmakers were reviewing the ruling and assessing options.