Cooper’s refusal to defend the state brings intense scrutiny

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, in Raleigh, North Carolina. Cooper addressed the media in response to the passing of House Bill 2 last week during a legislative special session. (Kevin Martin/North State Journal)

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, March 29, 2016, (Kevin Martin/North State Journal)


RALEIGH – The heat is on N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper as leadership from both chambers of the N.C. General Assembly call for his resignation. This after his announcement Tuesday that he would not defend the state in a lawsuit over House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act. The suit was filed Monday against Governor Pat McCrory, Cooper and the UNC Board of Governors by civil rights groups on behalf of a lesbian law professor at UNC and two transgender persons, one of whom is a student at UNC Greensboro. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality NC say the law violates the rules of equal protection under Title IX federal funding for education.  (Read the original Charlotte Non-Discrimination Ordinance and the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act).

Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)

Sen. Phil Berger (R-Rockingham)

“Roy Cooper’s refusal to defend the law makes clear he wants the ACLU to win by default in federal court what they can’t win at the ballot box and allow men to walk into locker rooms at YMCAs across our country and undress in front of young girls,” said Senate leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham). “His zeal for pandering for the extreme left’s money and agenda in his race for governor is making it impossible for him to fulfill his duties as attorney general – and he should resign immediately.”

Cooper, who is paid $126,000 in annual salary, was already under the microscope facing accusations that he alone could have headed off the special legislative session by stepping in as chief legal counsel for the state after the Charlotte City Council passed an ordinance that allowed individuals to used the bathroom of their choice. Cooper is the chief opponent to McCrory in the governor’s bid for re-election in November.

The N.C. General Assembly passed HB 2 last week, which requires people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate if a single stall or family bathroom is not available. More than a third of House Democrats voted for it, while Senate Democrats walked out, refusing to cast a vote. The law launched a campaign of organized protests, a social media blitz, and statements from some companies and organizations denouncing the vote and threatening to scale back investments in the state. Supporters of the law released a list of businesses supporting the legislation. On Tuesday the lawsuit was announced.

hager“As Attorney General, it his duty to serve and protect all North Carolinians. Instead of protecting North Carolina’s women and children, the Attorney General is hiding behind an untrue and unfounded legal loophole. House Bill 2 only constrains local government’s attempt to overregulate private businesses,” said Majority Leader Mike Hager (R-Rutherford). “Roy Cooper was given an opportunity to fulfill his duties to the state but chose to make this issue a political platform to use against Governor Pat McCrory. This issue should not have been made a political issue but rather a common sense decision to protect our citizens. Roy Cooper needs to do his legal duty for the state and its citizens or step aside so someone else can.”

McCrory, who was also named in the suit, took to YouTube Tuesday following intense media attention and incendiary statements on the issue, saying the facts about the law are not clear in the public’s mind. His official website lists a Q&A section on the bill in an effort to dispel what he says are myths about it.

“As the state attorney general he cannot select which laws he will defend and which laws are politically expedient to defend.  His excuse that his own internal policies would be affected is wrong.” said McCrory in the video. All employment policies for cities and corporations, and the Attorney General’s own policies remain exactly the same. The Attorney General is inventing conflict that simply does not exist. When you are the state’s lawyer, you are a lawyer first and a politician second.”

Cooper has not commented on the calls for his resignation, but this is not the first time the Attorney General has decided not to defend a lawsuit against the state. In 2012, he did not defend the marriage amendment to the N.C. state constitution that voters passed in a statewide referendum by a wide margin. The state spent more than $100,000 in private legal counsel.


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