RALEIGH, N.C. — The attorney general of North Carolina has announced that he will not defend a recently signed law that overturned a controversial “bathroom bill” in Charlotte and banned other cities from passing similar ordinances.
Roy Cooper called the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act a “national embarrassment” on Tuesday during a press conference in which he announced his decision not to defend the law in court following a legal challenge from the ACLU and two transgender advocacy organizations.
“We are here because the governor has signed statewide legislation that puts discrimination into the law,” said. “This is a unique and different situation, and as attorney general there are often times situations where you have to make choices with different agencies that are conflicted. Here, this is the right choice.”
As previously reported, last Wednesday, following three hours of debate, the North Carolina House voted 84-25 in favor of Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, with votes cast mostly along party lines—with the exception of 11 Democrats who supported the effort.
The bill then passed the Senate 32-0 after Democrats walked out in protest as they believed that they were being left out of the participation process.
“Public agencies shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility to be designated for and only used by persons based on their biological sex,” the legislation reads in part. “Local boards of education shall require every multiple occupancy bathroom or changing facility that is designated for student use to be designated for and used only by students based on their biological sex.”
The Act had been presented after the Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 last month to expand the city’s non-discrimination ordinance to add provisions for homosexuals and those who identify as the opposite sex—including in regard to restroom and locker room use.
Over 21,000 area residents had signed a petition in opposition of the proposed expansion, and pastors, community leaders and others part of a coalition opposed to the changes known as “Don’t Do It Charlotte” also rallied outside prior to the meeting. The overwhelming concern was in regard to allowing men to use women’s restrooms or locker rooms and vice versa if they identified as as the opposite gender.
Gov. Pat McCrory promptly signed the Public Facilities Act into law on the same day of its passage, and later released a fact sheet to clarify what he believed were misunderstandings about the content of the ordinance.
“Businesses are not limited by this bill. Private individuals, companies and universities can adopt new or keep existing nondiscrimination policies,” it reads in part. “[I]f a privately-owned sporting facility wants to allow attendees of sporting events to use the restroom of their choice, or install unisex bathrooms, they can. The law neither requires nor prohibits them from doing so.”
“This law simply says people must use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. Anyone who has undergone a sex change can change their sex on their birth certificate,” the fact sheet also advises.
On Monday, the ACLU, Equality North Carolina and Lamba Legal filed suit against McCrory and others on behalf of two transgendered residents, Joaquín Carcaño and Payton Grey McGarry, as well as and Angela Gilmore, a lesbian employed at North Carolina Central University.
Now, Cooper says he won’t defend the law since he personally disagrees with it.
“Not only is this new law a national embarrassment, it will set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal it,” he said. “The threats to our economy will grow even darker the longer this law stays in effect.”
“[W]e shouldn’t have to be dealing with these lawsuits in the first place,” Cooper continued. “A shameful new law has brought them upon us. Discrimination is wrong, period. The governor and the legislature should repeal this new law.”
On Tuesday, McCrory criticized Cooper of “inventing conflict that simply doesn’t exist” and asserted that Cooper is not permitted to circumvent his duties as attorney general.
“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,” he said.
“As the state’s attorney, he can’t select which laws he will defend and which laws are politically expedient to refuse to defend,” McCrory declared. “When you are the state’s lawyer, you are a lawyer first and a politician second. Therefore, I encourage the attorney general to reconsider his flawed logic.”
“It is just common sense that men should not go into the women’s restrooms,” Tami Fitzgerald, the executive director of the North Carolina Values Coalition, told reporters. “It’s ridiculous to have such an uproar.”