North Carolina’s next Democratic governor has seen a deal he helped broker to repeal the state’s law limiting LGBT protections fall apart and had several of his powers stripped away by the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.
And he hasn’t even been sworn in yet.
Gov.-elect Roy Cooper has vowed to keep his campaign promises to bend back the rightward course of the state.
But with only a 10,000-vote victory over GOP Gov. Pat McCrory and bitter partisan distrust in this deeply divided state, he’s already slipped along the rocky path he must walk to work successfully with the legislature. And Republicans will maintain veto-proof majorities in 2017.
“My future negotiations with them are certainly going to have to be instructed by this,” a somber yet angry Cooper told reporters after the deal to repeal the law known nationally as the “bathroom bill” collapsed.
Two December special sessions, one of which saw raucous protests against Republicans and dozens of arrests, have created further strain in a divided state that chose Republicans Donald Trump for president and Richard Burr for U.S. Senate but went with a Democrat for governor.
“There’s a complete lack of trust between the legislative leadership and Cooper at this point in time,” longtime state Democratic consultant Brad Crone said. “That does not bode well for an incoming governor.”
Missing out on ending House Bill 2 — which also directed transgender people to use bathrooms in public buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate — prompted finger-pointing between Cooper and legislative leaders. It would have been a major accomplishment to repeal a bill that has been blamed for job losses, canceled concerts and sporting events and staining North Carolina’s reputation.
“I think Roy Cooper did everything he could to sabotage a reasonable compromise,” said Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham.
Cooper shot back: “My mom and dad used to tell me that when you sat down and looked somebody in the eye and told them something you should keep your promise, and clearly they have not done so.”
Even before the General Assembly sessions, Cooper already was at a disadvantage.
Cooper is a 30-year veteran of state politics — 14 years in the legislature before 16 as attorney general — and claimed victory on election night.
But it was another 27 days before McCrory conceded while dozens of ballot protests and a partial recount worked out the results.
Set to take office Jan. 1, Cooper hasn’t yet announced a single Cabinet appointment — something McCrory had done by this time after his 2012 election — and faces new hurdles for his choices. One law the General Assembly approved this month requires his Cabinet choices be confirmed by legislators. The state Constitution gives the Senate the ability to “advise and consent” to the governor’s appointees by a majority vote, but that provision hadn’t been used in at least several decades.
GOP legislators argued they are only rebalancing the powers between the legislative and executive branches, but Democrats and their allies call it a brazen, unlawful power grab.
Another law reduces the number of political appointees Cooper can hire. Republicans had expanded the number of such policymaking jobs for McCrory from 400 to 1,500. That number goes back down to 425 for Cooper.
Cooper previously threatened lawsuits to challenge the efforts to scale back his power. “They will see me in court,” he told The Charlotte Observer last week.
Even as lawmakers held special sessions, the board of North Carolina’s private nonprofit tasked with luring companies to the state _ now filled with appointees from McCrory and the legislature — passed a bylaw change that will make it hard for Cooper to put his board choices on quickly.
The bad blood with lawmakers could portend Cooper’s difficulties to follow through on other campaign platform planks, such as accelerating public education funding and shifting tax burdens away from the middle class. He’s also vowed to preserve voting and abortion rights, after Republicans passed laws in 2013 scaling back early in-person voting and extending the abortion waiting period to three days.
But both Cooper and GOP lawmakers have said they could locate areas of agreement.
“I am optimistic that we can strike a good balance with the governor-elect in trying to build a consensus agenda and move our state forward,” said Rep. David Lewis, R-Harnett, chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee. “Relationships have changed between the legislative and the executive branch, but that doesn’t mean … we can’t work together.”
A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law — also known as the bathroom bill — collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.
After more than nine hours of backroom discussions and sporadic public effort, Republican state legislators quit trying to repeal House Bill 2 and went home Wednesday night.
The law omits gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from state anti-discrimination protections, bars local governments from passing non-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT citizens from being denied civil rights in employment and housing. It orders transgender people to use bathrooms and showers that align with their sex at birth, even if they’ve physically transitioned into the gender they identify with. The bill forces muscular, bearded men who were born as girls into using ladies’ rooms and feminine women in high heels and makeup into using men’s rooms.
But social conservatives defended the bathroom bill as necessary to prevent heterosexual men from presenting themselves as women in order to molest women and girls in bathrooms.A supposedly bipartisan deal to repeal North Carolina’s anti-LGBT law collapsed, meaning the state will remain a pariah shunned by corporations, entertainers and high-profile sporting events.
The issue of transgender bathroom use “wasn’t a problem North Carolina was facing,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. Legislators “should admit they messed up and repeal the bill.
The U.S. Justice Department and others contend the threat of sexual predators posing as transgender persons to enter a bathroom is practically nonexistent.
The bathroom bill has been blasted by gay-rights groups and resulted in many millions of dollars worth of economic benefits, as conventions, jobs and sporting events, such as the NBA All-Star Game, now shun the state. Corporate critics of the law included Deutsche Bank and Paypal, which both backed out of projects that would have brought hundreds of jobs to North Carolina.
“The NCAA’s decision to withhold championships from North Carolina remains unchanged,” spokesman Bob Williams said.
Repealing the state law could have ended protracted and expensive legal challenges by the federal Justice Department and transgender residents. Much of that litigation has been delayed while the U.S. Supreme Court hears a separate Virginia case on transgender restroom access.
“I’m disappointed that we have yet to remove the stain from the reputation of our great state that is around this country and around the world,” Democratic Gov.-elect Roy Cooper said.
He said he and his staff worked for more than a week on forging an agreement to repeal the law, talking with lawmakers from both parties, businesses, sports industry representatives and LGBT leaders.
GOP legislators who see themselves as business-friendly appeared shaken by a months-long backlash as major companies like BASF, IBM and Bank of America described HB2 as bad for business.
A compromise touted by both Cooper and outgoing GOP Gov. Pat McCrory called for Charlotte to eliminate its anti-discrimination ordinance in exchange for lawmakers undoing the anti-LGBT law.
But North Carolina’s religious-right never wanted to repeal the law, and GOP lawmakers cried foul when Charlotte leaders initially left part of the city’s ordinance in place.
McCrory signed the law and became its national face. HB2, along with other right-leaning bills he signed, turned this fall’s gubernatorial campaign into a referendum on the state’s recent conservative slant. He lost by about 10,000 votes to Cooper.
Armed with historic majorities in the state legislature for the first time, Kentucky’s Republican governor still says he will not use the state’s new GOP majority to push through a bathroom bill restricting transgender use of public facilities..
Matt Bevin told reporters he saw no need for Kentucky to pass a bathroom bill like the one in North Carolina that says people in schools and government buildings must use bathrooms according to the gender listed on their birth certificate.
Kentucky’s Republican-controlled Senate passed a bathroom bill two years ago, but it died in the then Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Incoming GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover says there is considerable interest among the new Republican majority to revive the proposal.
“Why would we?” asks Bevin, who apparently has no interest in exploiting what is known as potty politics to rile up the GOP’s far-right religious base.
“Is there anyone you know in Kentucky (who) has trouble going to the bathroom?” he asks. “The last thing we need is more government rules. I’m cutting red tape, not creating it.”
In 2015, a public Louisville high school allowed a transgender student to choose which bathroom to use. The decision was vetted and approved by the school’s council of parents and administrators, a process the Legislature set up in 1990 for schools to make their own policy decisions.
Earlier this year, Bevin joined a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s directive that public schools allow students to choose the bathroom based on their gender identity or risk losing federal funding.
Bevin says the federal directive “caused people great alarm far and wide across the commonwealth” and he criticized Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for not joining the lawsuit.
The bathroom law signed by North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory drew condemnation from out-of-state corporate CEOs and prompted the NCAA to remove some postseason athletic championships from the state, including the opening rounds of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. McCrory narrowly lost re-election last month.
Bevin said his administration will focus on passing laws that ban mandatory union membership and eliminate the state’s prevailing wage law. The latter supports higher wages for construction workers on government projects, with the goal of bolstering pay in the private sector.
Bevan also vows to reform the state’s tax code by eliminating some tax exemptions and lowering the overall rate.
“Those are the things the people of Kentucky voted overwhelmingly for a new direction and want to see votes on,” he says.
The NCAA has pulled seven championship events from North Carolina, including opening-weekend men’s basketball tournament games, for the coming year due to a state law that discriminates against LGBT people.
The NCAA said the decision by its board of governors came “because of the cumulative actions taken by the state concerning civil rights protections.”
“This decision is consistent with the NCAA’s long-standing core values of inclusion, student-athlete well-being and creating a culture of fairness,” said Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson, the chair of the board of governors.
The law — known as HB2 — requires transgender people to use restrooms at schools and government buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates. That means that heavily muscled and bearded transgender men have to use ladies’ rooms, while transgender women with breasts wearing makeup have to use men’s rooms.
The effect of the law is so jarring that it prevents many transgender people from using public facilities.
The law also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from local and statewide anti-discrimination protections. HB2 was signed into law by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory earlier this year. A spokesman with McCrory’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
“I wish the NCAA was this concerned about the women who were raped at Baylor,” spokeswoman Kami Mueller said.
The only championship events that can be hosted in North Carolina this academic year are ones determined when a team earns the right to play on their own campus. North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham and North Carolina State AD Debbie Yow both issued statements saying they were disappointed at the loss of the events.
“We certainly hope there will be resolution in the very near future,” Yow said.
The campaign spokesman for Democrat Roy Cooper, the state’s attorney general and McCrory’s re-election opponent in November, said the law needs to be repealed.
“It seems that almost every day, we learn of a new consequence of HB2,” spokesman Ford Porter said. “… We need to repeal this law and get our state back on track.”
The NCAA’s move leaves the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in Charlotte as the marquee college sporting event in the state this year as the men’s basketball tournament starts a two-year stay in Brooklyn, New York.
However, that event also could be in jeopardy. In May, the ACC announced that member schools discussed the law during their annual spring meetings and said it could impact whether the state hosts league championship events.
In April, the NCAA announced it was adopting an anti-discrimination measure that would affect the way the governing body evaluates bids to host sporting events and required sites to “demonstrate how they will provide an environment that is safe, healthy and free of discrimination.”
In a statement Monday night, NCAA President Mark Emmert said the governing body will delay announcements on future championship sites until early next year. That comes as it reviews responses to questionnaires required of prospective site hosts on how they would comply with the NCAA’s anti-discrimination measure.
In announcing its decision Monday, the NCAA stated current North Carolina laws “make it challenging to guarantee that host communities can help deliver” on that requirement.
The NCAA also took special note of four ways North Carolina’s law differs from other states. The NCAA pointed out that five states — Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont and Washington — and several cities prohibit travel by public employees and representatives of public institutions to the state of North Carolina. Those representatives prohibited to travel could include athletes, coaches and athletic administrators.
Monday’s action by the NCAA is the latest public and business backlash that has arisen since the law was enacted. The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game to New Orleans instead of hosting it in Charlotte as originally scheduled because of the law. Duke lost a men’s basketball game from its schedule when Albany backed out due to that state’s travel ban, while the Vermont women’s basketball team has canceled a December trip to play North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Entertainers like Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Ringo Starr have canceled plans to play in North Carolina. And PayPal reversed plans to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte.
The University of North Carolina system told a federal court that it would not enforce a law requiring transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.
The declaration came in a motion on May 27 asking a federal court to halt civil legal proceedings against the university system while a higher court decides a separate case on transgender rights from Virginia.
University system President Margaret Spellings, who served as George W. Bush’s administration, wrote in an affidavit that, pending the outcome of the North Carolina case: “I have no intent to exercise my authority to promulgate any guidelines or regulations that require transgender students to use the restrooms consistent with their biological sex.”
The university system’s lawyers went further, noting in a filing that the state law contains no enforcement mechanism and the university system also hasn’t “changed any of its policies or practices regarding transgender students or employees.”
“There is nothing in the Act that prevents any transgender person from using the restroom consistent with his or her gender identity,” the lawyers wrote.
They ask the federal judge to halt proceedings against the university system pending the outcome of a case on transgender rights being heard by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia as well as a separate case by the federal Department of Justice against North Carolina.
Five dueling cases over the law are pending in federal courts in North Carolina.
The UNC System had been named as a defendant along with Gov. Pat McCrory in a case filed on behalf of plaintiffs including students and university employees. Plaintiffs say the law requiring them to use restrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate is discriminatory.
Separately, a three-judge panel of the Virginia appeals court gave a favorable ruling to a transgender student seeking to use high school restrooms in line with his gender identity. The Virginia school board he sued has asked for a new hearing before the full appeals court. That case hinges on a federal anti-discrimination law that’s also central to the North Carolina cases.
The North Carolina law enacted in March requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in public schools, universities and many other public buildings. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide anti-discrimination protections.
In a recent letter, McCrory asked Congress to clarify U.S. Civil Rights Act protections. The May 18 letter to U.S. House and Senate leaders asks them to act in light of Justice Department and Education Department instructions stating the federal law’s protections apply to sexual orientation and gender identity. McCrory disagrees.
Friday’s filings go a step further than previous statements by Spellings, who had lamented in a May 9 letter to the Justice Department that the system was “in a difficult position” caught between state and federal laws.
“Spellings is just being whipsawed,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond. “She’s in a tough spot, as is the system. They’re trying to do the best they can by their different constituencies.”
He said the request for a stay was sensible considering that the outcome of the Virginia case will likely dictate how the federal judges decide the North Carolina lawsuits.
“The district judges in North Carolina are probably not going to do anything other than what the 4th Circuit says,” he said.
Stagehand Kery Eller doesn’t own any Bruce Springsteen albums. If he did, he says he would smash them — but he might do better to direct his anger at North Carolina Republicans.
Eller says he expected to earn at least $3,000 working the sold-out Springsteen concert and other high-profile shows around the state before artists canceled the events in protest over North Carolina’s new LGBT law.
Eller and about 100 members of the local union of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are among the many workers and businesses caught in the crossfire of the national debate over LGBT rights and feeling the economic shockwaves from the growing number of canceled shows.
Hotels, restaurants, bars and even community groups who work arena concession stands say they are suffering from the boycott.
“It’s my livelihood; it’s where I make my money,” Eller said. “It’s not just hurting the entertainment industry. It’s hurting our state overall, period. And I’m not talking politically at all.”
The wide-reaching law that directs transgender people to use the public bathroom that aligns with the gender on their birth certificate was signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in March. Since then, Pearl Jam, violinist Itzhak Perlman, Ringo Starr and Cirque Du Soleil have canceled.
The pop group Maroon 5 became the latest entertainer to decide to skip the state.
Other acts performed but donated proceeds from their shows to groups fighting the law.
McCrory, who has sued the Justice Department over its directive allowing transgender students to use their preferred bathroom, has continued his support of the law.
His re-election campaign issued a statement condemning Maroon 5’s recent cancellation, saying the artists’ boycott only hurts people of North Carolina and arena employees.
The last-minute cancellations are disappointing to fans, but more devastating to venue staff, said promoter Gregg McCraw, owner of MaxxMusic in Charlotte.
“Springsteen fired the first shot and he cancelled that show only two or three days before the show,” McCraw said. “That had a major impact. The venue clearly couldn’t get anything else in there.”
McCraw said the impact is likely to affect the North Carolina live music industry for months to come because artists and agents are wavering on whether to even schedule shows in North Carolina four to six months from now.
“So there will be a period, and none of us know how long this will last, before something happens in a positive way,” he said.
The Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the city’s economic powerhouse, estimated it lost $188,000 from three no-shows so far, according to Ted Oliver, chairman of the advisory board to the complex.
The city sent the governor a May 12 letter asking him to reconsider his support of the law.
“When we hear that the coliseum is suffering, what that really means is the employees are suffering,” Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said. “People who work part-time to balance their budget. That affects workers in hotels, housekeeping, front desks. These are people who are dependent on every single paycheck.”
For a large event like Bruce Springsteen, the venue would have hired part-time work from 225 event staff, 60 parking staff, 30 housekeepers and about 100 stagehands, said Andrew Brown, a spokesman for the coliseum complex.
Concessions booths staffed by organizations such as the Walter Hines Page High School Band Boosters, who get a cut of the funding for their programs, were left with nothing. They can reap at least $600 a night when the shows are on, which helps them pay to dry clean uniforms and feed the marching band before away games.
Band boosters were scheduled to work both Springsteen and Cirque du Soleil, said treasurer Dan Kasper, whose son plays trumpet.
Small business owners that share Gate City Blvd with the Coliseum say it’s too early to quantify how much the cancellations have cost them, but the events are usually big business.
Badreldin Mustafa, general manager at Tito’s Pizza, said a concert night nearly doubles his business because visitors must walk by to get to the coliseum. Jesus Macias, who owns La Bamba Mexican restaurant, said servers rely on tips from those three or four major events to balance out a dwindling stream of regulars the rest of the year.
Owners of some restaurants declined to comment, saying they didn’t want to be entangled in personal and political implications. Both Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte and PNC Arena in Raleigh, which have lost Demi Lovato & Nick Jonas and most recently Maroon 5, declined to comment on the cancellations.
Near the Greensboro coliseum, owner and manager Ziad Fleihan of Ghassan’s, a kabob and sandwich shop with a location two blocks from the coliseum, said the potential economic effect is scary.
“We should be making laws that bring business to North Carolina rather than creating barriers keeping people away from the state. The goal of business is to make money,” he said.
He is also worried about the NCAA pulling its championship events out of the state. The coliseum and the accompanying Greensboro Aquatic Center are slated to host NCAA basketball tournament games in 2017 and NCAA swimming and diving championship games in 2018. It’s not yet clear whether the NCAA will keep the events in North Carolina.
“I think that we can continue to try to get the message out that Greensboro is an inclusive city and not to punish us,” said Vaughan, the Greensboro mayor. “It really is punishing the city when acts don’t come here and people continue to feel the brunt of that decision.”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said this week that transgender people should be able to use whichever bathroom they choose, wading into one of the most contentious issues in politics and opposing many in his party.
Speaking at a town hall event on NBC’s “Today,” Trump was asked about North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom law,” which, among other things, requires transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate in state government buildings, as well as public schools and universities.
Trump said, “There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go, they use the bathroom that they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble.”
After the law was signed in late March, Deutsche Bank halted plans to add 250 North Carolina jobs, while PayPal reversed a decision to open a 400-employee operation center in Charlotte. Local tourism boards have also said they’ve lost millions of dollars thanks to cancelled conventions and business meetings.
Trump’s main rival, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, immediately fired back, saying that Trump is giving in to “political correctness.”
“Grown adult men, strangers, should not be alone in a bathroom with little girls,” Cruz said, calling his view “basic common sense.”
His campaign also released a statement declaring Trump “no different from politically correct leftist elites.”
“He has succumbed to the left’s agenda, which is to force Americans to leave God out of public life while paying lip service to false tolerance,” it read.
The comments came as Trump drew closer to clinching the Republican nomination with a big win in his home state of New York earlier in the week. If he becomes his party’s nominee, Trump is likely to face pressure to moderate some of his stances to appeal to independents and women in the general election. Yet in doing so, he risks alienating some of his party’s more conservative supporters, and falling vulnerable to those like Cruz and others who insist that Trump is not a true Republican.
Trump said at the town hall that he didn’t know if any transgender people work for his organization, but said that some “probably” did.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory defended the anti-LGBT law in a statement from his re-election campaign, blaming the Charlotte city council for passing an “unneeded and overreaching ordinance.”
“Where the governor disagrees with Mr. Trump is that bathroom and shower facilities in our schools should be kept separate and special accommodations made when needed. It’s just common sense,” said the statement from campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz.
In Washington, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan punted on questions about the legislation, saying that it wasn’t his place to get involved in what each state was doing.
Ald. Tony Zielinski (14th Ward) plans to introduce a resolution to the Milwaukee Common Council on Tues., Nov. 24, condemning Assembly Bill 469 — the so-called “bathroom bill.”
The Assembly’s Republican leadership introduced the measure yesterday. It would prevent transgender students and citizens from using restroom and locker facilities that do not conform to their birth gender. The bill also would overturn laws passed by municipalities and local public school policies that allow transgender people to use facilities consistent with their actual, self-identified gender.
Critics of the bill, including the Human Rights Campaign and Wisconsin Gazette, argue that AB 469 is a cruel distraction from real issues and will provoke more harassment and discrimination of transgender individuals, as well as violence toward them.
“Transgender students have enough challenges that they already have to deal with, unfortunately, and this AB 469 just adds to the mix,” Zielinski said. “It’s very unfortunate that this ill-conceived and insensitive piece of legislation has been brought forward.”
Zielinski said he’s confident that the Common Council will support his resolution and get Milwaukee’s city officials on the record denouncing Wisconsin Republicans’ assault on the civil rights of transgender individuals.