Tag Archives: Cooper

North Carolina Republicans back out of pledge to repeal bathroom bill

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.

Experts see narrow High Court ruling on Prop 8

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed reluctant March 26 to say the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. However, as the historic hearing unfolded, it seemed likely a narrow ruling – or a dismissal of the case – would lead to more marriage licenses for gays and lesbians in California.

The High Court on March 26 heard the challenge to California’s Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2008 ending same-sex marriage in the state.

The basic question presented to the court was whether the Constitution includes a right for same-sex couples to marry.

But for the justices to answer that question, they must first agree that they should be deciding the Prop 8 case at all. Because California’s top officials declined to defend Prop 8, proponents of the ballot initiative intervened as advocates for the amendment, creating a question of standing.

When the hearing began, the first questions were for Prop 8 attorney Charles Cooper on whether private citizens can defend a state measure, even when the state declined to participate. 

“I don’t think we’ve ever allowed anything like that,” said Chief Justice John Roberts.

Both Cooper and later Theodore Olson, the American Foundation for Equal Rights attorney representing the same-sex couples challenging Prop 8, were peppered with questions from the justices about standing.

Then the justices turned their focus to Prop 8 and marriage. 

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg had strong reactions against Cooper’s argument that the state’s sole interest in marriage is to promote procreation. Kagan, for one, asked the lawyer whether states could ban people over age 55 from marrying because, generally, they won’t be giving birth to children.

Cooper replied, “No, Your Honor, it would not be constitutional.”

Olson, argued for a broad ruling that there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage on due process and equal protection grounds. Prop 8, he told the justices, “walls off the institution of marriage, which is not society’s right. It’s an individual right that this court again and again and again has said the right to get married, the right to have the relationship of marriage is a personal right. It’s a part of the right of privacy, association, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But Justice Anthony Kennedy, who’s considered the swing vote, indicated any decision in the case for same-sex marriage would be narrow. He showed concern for children in families denied equality by the state, but said extending marriage rights to same-sex couples in all 50 states would take the court into “unchartered waters.”

When the session ended, legal experts seemed to agree that if the justices decide the case on its merits, they will not overturn the 30 constitutional amendments and 10 state laws against gay marriage. More likely is that a majority will affirm a lower court ruling, which would clear the way for California clerks to resume issuing marriage licenses to gay couples but not directly impact other states.

David Boies, representing Prop 8 challengers Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo, said after the hearing, that the justices seemed “thoughtful.”

“It’s been a long journey here over the past three and a half years, and we are all greatly encouraged by the imminent decision. The remarkable thing that happened in there is that there was no attempt to defend the ban of gay and lesbian marriage – all that was discussed in there is whether this should be decided at the state level. But our federal constitution grants fundamental rights to all Americans.”

Perry, standing on the steps outside the court, said, “Today is a monumental day, not just for Sandy and me, but for the millions of other Americans across the country who have waited for years for the Supreme Court to consider whether they too should enjoy the right to marry. Witnessing today’s proceedings gives me hope that our four sons, and kids across America, will soon live in a country where love and equality prevail.”

Thousands of people had gathered in the court plaza – far more calling for same-sex marriage rights than demonstrating against equality.

At the United for Marriage rally at the court, U.S. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton told the crowd, “There are no second-class citizens in America. And there are no second-class marriages in America.”

Rea Carey of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force called the hearing a “watershed moment for America.”

“Today,” she said, “we stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and on the threshold of history, as the highest court in the land considers one of the most defining civil rights issues of our time. Our gathering at the Supreme Court, as well as all of the powerful events occurring in every state across the country, reflects the vast diversity of support for marriage equality. The array of people and organizations standing up for equality is historic: nearly 300 leading businesses, 30 retired military leaders, 131 top Republicans, 214 sitting members of Congress, and dozens of religious, labor, legal and family health organizations.”

A ruling in the Prop 8 case is expected in late June.

On the docket

The case: Dennis Hollingsworth v. Kristin M. Perry

The background: On Nov. 4, 2008, California voters approved Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The state then ceased to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

The parties: Two couples – Kris Perry and Sandy Stier and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo – sued to overturn Prop 8, with support from the American Foundation for Equal Rights and representation by attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies.

After California’s top officials refused to defend Prop 8, the initiative’s proponents intervened. Their attorney before the Supreme Court was Charles Cooper.

The questions: Do the proponents of Prop 8 have standing before the Supreme Court? Does Proposition 8 violate due process and equal protection? 

The verdict: Due in late June.

Mich. assistant attorney general fired for stalking gay student

A Michigan assistant attorney general has been fired for stalking and harassing the gay president of the Michigan Student Assembly.

Andrew Shirvell was removed from his position for lying to investigators during a disciplinary hearing and for posting attacks against the student online during work hours, according to a statement released on Nov. 8 by Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox.

Shirvell became a national lightning rod after appearing on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” to defend his attacks against Chris Armstrong, whom he referred to as a Nazi and Satan’s representative.

“I’m a Christian citizen exercising my First Amendment rights,” Shirvell told Cooper.

Cox said Shirvell’s offenses went beyond free speech, however. He said Shirvell had shown up at Armstrong’s home three times, including once at 1:30 a.m., to harass him.

Cox said Shirvell’s aggressive pattern of seeking out and harassing Armstrong amounted to stalking. Shirvell harassed several of Armstrong’s friends while they were socializing in Ann Arbor and attempted to out him to his non-gay friends. Shirvell also made numerous calls to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office while Armstrong worked as an intern there in an apparent attempt to get the speaker to fire him.

At one point, Armstrong sought a protective order against Shirvell.

“The cumulative effects of his use of state resources, harassing conduct that is not protected by the First Amendment and his lies during (a) disciplinary conference all demonstrate adequate evidence of conduct unbecoming a state employee,” Cox said.

Shirvell is one of about 250 lawyers who serve in the attorney general’s office. A 2002 alumnus of the University of Michigan, he is only allowed to visit the Ann Arbor campus if he does not attempt to make physical or verbal contact with Armstrong or be in the same place at the same time.