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North Carolina governor issues decree allowing men to use women's bathrooms

(Reuters/Jonathan Drake/File Photo)A sign protesting a recent North Carolina law restricting transgender bathroom access is seen in the bathroom stalls at the 21C Museum Hotel in Durham, North Carolina May 3, 2016.

North Carolina's Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper has issued a consent decree that allows citizens to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than their biological sex as part of a settlement with pro-LGBT groups to resolve the lawsuit over the state's controversial bathroom law.

According to The Hill, the decree stresses that transgender individuals are not prevented under state law from using public facilities that are consistent with their gender identity.

In March, a measure was passed to rescind the state's bathroom law known as HB 2, which required residents to use restrooms in government buildings that match the gender on their birth certificate.

The replacement bill, HB 142, helped bring back some business and sports events that pulled from the state in protest of HB 2. However, pro-LGBT groups argued that the replacement continued the harm posed by its predecessor by putting the North Carolina General Assembly in control of the state's bathroom policies.

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and pro-LGBT legal group Lambda Legal sued the state challenging HB 142, arguing that it prohibited local entities from passing ordinances that would allow biological men to use women's restrooms or locker rooms.

The settlement agreement, filed on Wednesday, states that the government is "hereby permanently enjoined from enforcing Section 2 of H.B. 142 to bar, prohibit, block, deter, or impede any transgender individuals from using public facilities under any Executive Branch Defendant's control or supervision, in accordance with the transgender individual's gender identity."

Civil rights groups asserted that the new decree would remove some of the harmful effects of the state's widely criticized bathroom law.

"H.B. 2 and H.B. 142 remain shameful and discriminatory attacks on LGBT people that should never have been signed into law, but under this proposed consent decree North Carolina would finally affirm the right of transgender people to use facilities that match their gender," Karen Anderson, the executive director of the ACLU of North Carolina, said in a statement.

The judge presiding over the lawsuit must agree to the terms of the consent decree before it could take effect.

On Wednesday, Cooper also signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies and those who have contracts with the state from discriminating on the basis of several labels, including gender identity and sexual orientation.

The Democratic governor contended that the consent decree and the executive order are "important steps toward fighting discrimination and enacting protections throughout state government and across our state."

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