“A National Embarrassment”: N.C. AG Won’t Defend Law Weakening LGBTQ Protections

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Roy-Cooper

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March 30, 2016; CNN Money

This week, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper joined the chorus of naysayers denouncing his own state’s law blocking discrimination protections, which was passed last week and has significantly reduced protections for gay and transgendered individuals. As reported by NPQ, he joins leaders in New York, Vermont, Washington, San Francisco, Seattle, and now Boston who have banned public employees from traveling to the state. This week, Cooper, a Democrat running against Republican Governor Pat McCrory, indicated that neither he nor his office would not represent the state and defend the law against a federal lawsuit brought by two transgender men, a lesbian law professor, and the ACLU. While the law has attracted significant national negative attention, Cooper’s decisive dismissal of the law illustrates the state’s own inner turmoil and speaks volumes of the political, economic and social fallout following the law’s passage.

“We will argue it is unconstitutional as part of our defense of existing employment policies in the Attorney General’s and State Treasurer’s Office,” said Cooper at a press conference. “Not only is this new law a national embarrassment, it will set North Carolina’s economy back.”

Governor McCrory, who is up for re-election, defended the decision to pass the law on Tuesday, responding directly to Cooper’s statements. “Some have called our state an embarrassment,” he said in a video press release on Tuesday. “The real embarrassment is politicians not publicly respecting each other’s positions on complex issues.”

North Carolina has been the target of a vicious, nation-wide smear campaign. Disregarding the facts, other politicians, from the White House to mayors and city council members and yes our Attorney General, have initiated and promoted conflict to advance their political agenda. Even if it means defying the Constitution and their oath of office.

Now I’m standing up to the Attorney General of North Carolina who today refused to fulfill his oath of office to defend the people of North Carolina in a lawsuit filed over the privacy of our restrooms. As the state’s attorney, he can’t select which laws he will defend and which laws are politically expedient to refuse to defend.

At the very least, Cooper’s concerns about the economy are well placed, given the swift response from corporations and public figures disparaging the law. So far, 80 CEOs and executives have signed a letter to Governor McCrory urging “you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.” Bank of America, which is based in Charlotte, joined executives at such corporations as Airbnb, Apple, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, among others. Human Rights Watch and Equality NC, the state organization that helps protect the rights of LGBTQ individual, released the letter this Tuesday. It reads:

We are disappointed in your decision to sign this discriminatory legislation into law. The business community, by and large, has consistently communicated to lawmakers at every level that such laws are bad for our employees and bad for business. This is not a direction in which states move when they are seeking to provide successful, thriving hubs for business and economic development. We believe that HB 2 will make it far more challenging for businesses across the state to recruit and retain the nation’s best and brightest workers and attract the most talented students from across the nation. It will also diminish the state’s draw as a destination for tourism, new businesses, and economic activity.

Corporations and public figures were successful in dominating the conversation in Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar “religious freedom” bill.

The social media response in the past week has largely echoed Cooper’s statements.

Not only has North Carolina potentially shot itself in the foot economically for passing HB 2, but, as indicated by Human Rights Watch, the state is also opening itself up to liability, as the statute directly conflicts with some aspects of North Carolina public schools’ obligation under the federal Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination. According to Human Rights Watch, the new law is potentially endangering $4.5 billion in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education.—Shafaq Hasan

  • Tricia Baker

    I’m living in NC, but #wearenotthis is my motto since 2013. I’m so embarrassed as the current legislators continue to remove civil rights, school funding, and protections for the environment. My heart is broken by their insistence on pushing through these examples of profound bigotry. NC used to be known for its progressive approach, but it will take 20+ years of work to restore it to the shining light it once was. The Legislature has rejected Medicaid expansion, forcing the closure of rural hospitals, where so many live in dire poverty. I’m horrified and upset. I lived many years away, then came to my original region only to witness its demise. I apologize to all my friends and colleagues, from all over the country, for the ridiculous actions taken. Please know, my friends, that even my World War II veteran father is dismayed. He said, “I didn’t go to war to take people’s rights away” when the denial of same sex marriage was proposed, then affirmed (now dismantled by the Supreme Court, thankfully.)
    Even when you are in the nonprofit sector, benign lawmakers can turn extreme from fear. Please be conscious of their power, and enlist your Champions to continue to communicate with them, even if it’s only a greeting. We have not exercised the power we have.
    A suggestion: Uncover how many dollars your nonprofit returns to the local community, and post it everywhere. Many programs take care of problems before they become a cost to the public, and that number is also important. Be sure that all your advocates and employees have these numbers memorized, so that all can create a positive presence as ambassadors for your organization.
    #WeAreNotThis.