GOP Leaders Decry North Carolina Governor's LGBT Rights Deal

by Jonathan Drew

Associated Press

Friday October 20, 2017

North Carolina's Republican leaders said Thursday that a federal court should reject a deal by the Democratic governor that would affirm the rights of transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger issued a statement accusing Cooper of resurrecting bad feelings surrounding the state's so-called bathroom bill. A compromise deal earlier this year undid the law known as HB2, but its replacement also is being challenged as discriminatory.

The legislative leaders said that the legal settlement Cooper proposed Wednesday with LGBT plaintiffs as well as an executive order he issued prohibiting discrimination renege on a deal the governor helped broker to take HB2 off the books in March.

"Roy Cooper made a deal with the business community and the legislature to repeal HB2 and put divisive social issues that North Carolinians are sick of hearing about behind us, and his attempt to resurrect these issues shows he acted in bad faith," they said, adding: "We trust the court will reject the governor's latest stunt."

Berger and Moore's representatives didn't immediately say whether or how they plan to scuttle Cooper's moves. The legislative leaders and the state university system, also defendants in the case, didn't sign the proposed consent decree and could challenge it in court. The General Assembly could pass a law canceling the executive order, though legislators aren't due back in session for three months.

The "bathroom bill" met its demise in March when legislators replaced it with a law known as HB142, which eliminated their requirement that transgender people use restrooms in many public buildings corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates.

But the new law said only the General Assembly - not local governments or school officials - can make rules for public restrooms from now on. HB142 also prohibits local governments from enacting new nondiscrimination ordinances for workplaces, hotels and restaurants until December 2020.

LGBT activists revamped their legal challenge, saying the new law maintains the harms of its predecessor by leaving a vacuum of uncertainty over public restroom use, and continuing to expose lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to discrimination across the state.

The proposed consent decree would affirm the rights of transgender people to use restrooms corresponding to their gender identity in the public buildings of executive branch agencies controlled by Cooper or his appointees, such as those that oversee transportation and Medicaid.

The plaintiffs said that if the judge approves the consent decree, they would drop claims against the governor and other defendants.

At the same time as the consent decree was announced, Cooper issued an executive order prohibiting Cabinet-level departments under his control, including their contractors, from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Cooper's office said the order would affect 55,000 state employees and 3,000 vendors for up to $1.5 billion in contracts.

He said settlement and executive order would help fight discrimination and improve the state's business environment by making it more welcoming.

Social conservatives accused Cooper of usurping the legislative branch's authority with moves that conflict with the March compromise.

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