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RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today approved a Senate bill that would require public colleges and universities to recognize and grant funding and facilities to student groups that discriminate by ousting leaders or students based on their personal beliefs. SB 719 requires recognition of groups that “order their internal affairs” and “resolve the organization’s disputes” according to their faith or mission – which could be interpreting as kicking out or denying membership to certain students. The bill now heads to the governor for his signature.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina opposes the bill.

“This bill would force taxpayers to fund school groups even when they discriminate by rejecting students based on their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The right of student groups to organize and meet without school resources is not in question.  The only question is whether colleges and universities should be forced to fund and lend other resources to groups that discriminate not only in how they select student leaders, but potentially in how they select or determine membership.”   


RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today passed S.B. 370, “Respect for Student Prayer/Religious Liberty,” which purports to clarify the rights of public school students to freely engage in religious activities and the proper role of school personnel during such expression. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina opposes the bill because existing law already protects the right of religious expression for students and S.B. 370 could create confusion and serve to ostracize students of different beliefs.

“The right of students to voluntarily express and practice their faith in public schools is already well-established and protected by the First Amendment,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “Some of this bill’s unnecessary and confusing language could wrongly encourage public school personnel to takes sides in student-led religious activity, making students with different beliefs feel excluded or ostracized not only by their classmates, but also by their teachers and schools.” 

The bill has already passed the state Senate but was modified by the House and now must return to the Senate for concurrence before being sent to Gov. Pat McCrory for his signature.


RALEIGH – The North Carolina House of Representatives today voted 77 to 39 to pass House Bill 725, the Young Offender Rehabilitation Act, which would place 16 and 17 year olds charged with misdemeanors under the jurisdiction of North Carolina’s juvenile justice system by 2020. North Carolina is currently one of only two states in the nation that treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults in its criminal justice system.

“Today’s bipartisan vote is a hugely important step toward ensuring that young people in our criminal justice system are not only protected, but given a chance to correct course,” said Sarah Preston, Policy Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Carolina. “Young people who land in the adult criminal justice system are disproportionately at risk while in custody, more likely to return to criminal behavior than those placed in the juvenile system, and denied jobs and educational opportunities that could help them turn their lives around and contribute to society. We urge the Senate to follow the example set by these bipartisan House members and vote in favor of HB 725.”

A recent survey by the ACLU-NC found that virtually all of North Carolina’s county jails are failing to comply with new federal regulations set by the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which requires facilities to house 16 and 17 year olds separately from adult inmates, though many are working toward compliance.


RICHMOND, VA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, which has jurisdiction over North Carolina and four other states, will hear oral arguments Tuesday, May 13, in a case challenging Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples. The case will be argued in Richmond, Virginia, by James Esseks, Director of the ACLU’s LGBT & AIDS Project, among others. On February 14, 2014, a federal judge ruled that Virginia’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples is unconstitutional, but the ruling has been suspended while it is being appealed. A Fourth Circuit ruling on that case, Bostic v. Rainey, could have an impact on North Carolina’s similar marriage ban.   

In North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation have filed two federal lawsuits challenging North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples, both in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. The first, Fisher-Borne et al. v. Smith, was filed in July 2013 as an amended complaint to a 2012 lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s ban on second parent adoptions on behalf of six families across the state headed by same-sex couples. On April 9, 2014, the ACLU filed a second federal lawsuit, Gerber and Berlin et al. v. Cooper, on behalf of three married, same-sex couples seeking state recognition of their marriages. Because of the serious medical condition of one member of each couple, they are asking the court to take swift action.

The ACLU has filed an amicus curiae, or “friend-of-the-court” brief, in the Bostic case before the Fourth Circuit on behalf of its North Carolina clients who are raising children. The brief highlights particular harms that North Carolina’s ban on marriage for same-sex couples has on families and children, including denial of medical decision-making in an emergency, Social Security Insurance survivor benefits, the ability to provide children with quality health insurance of the non-legal parents, detrimental tax status, and denial of veteran’s benefits, among others.