Tag Archives: roy cooper

Failed deal to undo anti-LGBT law marks rocky start for governor

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.”

NCAA relocates championships from North Carolina over anti-LGBT law

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.

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North Carolina attorney general will stop defending his state’s gay marriage ban

About two hours after the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will no longer defend his state’s voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality.

Cooper said the appeals court ruling made it highly likely that North Carolina’s ban also will be overturned, rendering “futile” further opposition to the four federal lawsuits challenging it.

“Our attorneys have vigorously defended North Carolina marriage law, which is their job,” said Cooper, a Democrat. “But today we know our law almost surely will be overturned as well. Simply put, it is time to stop making arguments we will lose and instead move forward, knowing that the ultimate resolution will likely come from the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Cooper had previously stated his personal opposition to the marriage ban, but said it was his duty to defend the state constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2012. He said his decision doesn’t mean same-sex marriages in North Carolina can begin immediately. That would take a judge’s ruling. But since the 4th Circuit includes North Carolina, he said any federal judge in the state would be bound by the ruling out of Virginia.

Gay marriage proponents have won more than 24 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriages.

The U.S. Supreme Court could have at least five appellate decisions to consider if it takes up gay marriage again in its next term, beginning in October.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina represents same-sex plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging the North Carolina law now pending before a federal judge in Greensboro. Chris Brook, the group’s legal director, agreed that the new ruling means the state’s ban is likely to be overturned.

Cooper’s decision was quickly condemned by Republican officials and groups that campaigned for the amendment approved two years ago. Cooper is widely expected to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge GOP Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016.

Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the pro-ban North Carolina Values Coalition, strongly disagreed that it is a forgone conclusion that the law would be overturned.

“It is outrageous that federal judges put themselves in the place of God by seeking to redefine the very institution that He created,” Fitzgerald said. “Anyone who believes that this decision in Virginia somehow strikes down North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment is wrong. North Carolina’s Marriage Amendment still stands, and no judge has found it unconstitutional.”

North Carolina attorney general comes out for gay marriage

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper has revealed that he supports same-sex marriage, and he says his personal views won’t prevent him from vigorously defending North Carolina’s constitutional amendment against such marriages in a lawsuit.

When Cooper opposed passage of the May 2012 amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages, which passed by a comfortable margin, he spoke mostly about the lack of clarity in its language, and had never addressed publicly his views on the issue itself.

But when asked over the weekend by The Associated Press in an interview whether he’d like to see the amendment repealed or a law passed to sanction same-sex marriage, Cooper said: “I support marriage equality.”

Cooper is named as a defendant and is the state’s lead designated attorney in a lawsuit filed by several same-sex couples that was recently expanded to challenge the constitutionality of the amendment in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision over the summer.

His announcement worries social conservative groups that supported the amendment’s passage but aren’t sure that Cooper will robustly defend the state in court. They are particularly unhappy with Cooper for agreeing to speak at next month’s annual fundraiser for the gay-rights organization Equality North Carolina. While not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, Equality NC lobbies for expanding rights for gays and lesbians.

Cooper’s planned Nov. 9 speech draws “into serious question the intent of the attorney general with respect to the lawsuit,” North Carolina Family Policy Council executive director John Rustin said.

“We believe it is inappropriate for him to participate in that event in that fashion while he is … the lead defense attorney in a case that is attempting to overturn our marriage laws, which is a major goal and agenda of Equality North Caroilna,” Rustin said in an interview.

Cooper, a Democrat who is laying the groundwork for a bid for governor in 2016, told the AP he speaks “with many diverse groups all over North Carolina about issues facing this state, and this is no different.” Equality NC leaders asked him to speak, Cooper added.

Equality NC executive director Chris Sgro was ecstatic hearing of Cooper’s personal support for expanding marriage to include same-sex couples, which is now granted in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

Sgro said Cooper “has long been an advocate for equal rights for all people and we applaud him for publicly aligning” with a “fast-growing majority” of state residents who support legal recognition for gay couples.

Although 61 percent of voters said yes to the constitutional amendment, Sgro dismissed the Family Policy Council as “a small minority” whose opposition to Cooper’s gala appearance will energize Equality NC supporters.

Cooper, now in his 13th year as attorney general, said his office has successfully defended other laws from challenges with which he didn’t necessarily agree. Cooper and other state attorneys last month filed a motion to have a judge dismiss the federal lawsuit, which also seeks to overturn a state law that says same-sex couples cannot be recognized as equal parents of children.

“You’re not going to hear me talk about the legality or constitutionality of any of these statutes that are under litigation. I think it’s important for me not to do that,” Cooper said before addressing a Democratic Party function in Greensboro. “However, I will engage in public policy discussions and I want to do that.”

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and GOP legislative leaders have expressed apprehension about Cooper’s legal role.

The General Assembly passed a law this year giving itself the authority to defend itself in court with its own lawyers, rather than relying on Cooper’s office. And McCrory announced he had hired a private attorney to work with Cooper defending litigation challenging an election overhaul bill that in part requires photo identification to vote in person in 2016.

McCrory general counsel Bob Stephens told reporters two weeks ago that Cooper’s strong personal opposition to the elections law “compromised his ability to represent the state of North Carolina.” Cooper said he can set aside his personal views to carry out his constitutional duties as the state’s top lawyer.

Cooper’s office didn’t object in July to the American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys for six same-sex couples who sued over the adoption law to amend the lawsuit to challenge their prohibition to get married.

In last month’s dismissal motion, state attorneys argued that regulation of marriage and child adoption are traditionally reserved to the states without federal intervention. Same-sex marriage or adoption rights are not fundamental rights, according to the motion.

“The right for a man and a woman to marry is fundamental, the right to other unions, including same-sex marriage, is not,” reads the motion, submitted Sept. 11 on behalf of Cooper by four other state attorneys.