This article first appeared at American Lens News on October 23, 2017.
Cooper and Stein can’t seem to stay out of North Carolina bathrooms.
Last Wednesday, October 18th, NC Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein both made overtures for re-opening the bathroom war.
Cooper issued an Executive Order mandating “gender identity and expression” be added to anti-discrimination practice already in place in the state. This order impacts 55,000 state employees and over 3,000 vendors and contractors that work with the state.
Cooper also posted the news to the website Medium. In his article, Cooper says that “after working with the business community and the LGBT advocacy community, I’m proud to act on our shared belief that people should not face discrimination or harassment because of who they are.”
American Lens reached out to the Governor’s office for clarification on this statement. No response was received by publication time. American Lens has had difficulty in getting Governor Cooper’s office to respond to media request since January. Currently, our organization has five outstanding Freedom of Information Act requests which are over 180 days old.
AG Josh Stein entered into a ‘consent decree‘ with the ACLU and Lambda Legal, who are suing the state over the bathroom reset bill, House Bill 142. Governor Cooper signed House Bill 142 into law earlier this year.
What the decree is asking the court for is to rule that HB 142 can’t block transgender people from using any bathroom or locker room facilities that match their claimed ‘gender identity’.
In other words, all bathrooms and locker rooms are fair game for anyone of any sex. It would be as if the illegal Charlotte Ordinance had not been repealed but instead applied state-wide.
Contrary to major media reports, the consent decree is not a done deal. Stein’s consent decree won’t be valid until it has been signed by U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. Even if the decree were signed, it would represent yet another serious judicial overreach on state sovereignty and it is very likely another legal battle would follow.
Another Stunt for Cooper?
Senator Berger’s reaction was to call the moves by Cooper and Stein a “stunt.” Berger might very well be right.
It’s unclear what the Governor believes his Executive Order accomplishes, since his predecessor, Pat McCrory, had already included protections for ‘gender identity’ in his Executive Order number 93.
North Carolina state laws governing the Executive Order powers of the Governor state that any such order that impacts current state law must be submitted to the General Assembly.
Article III, Section 10 under Duties of Governor in the North Carolina Constitution says that if an Executive Order attempts to change existing law, the order has to be, “submitted to the General Assembly not later than the sixtieth calendar day of its session.”
Article III, Section 10 goes on to state that an Executive Order, “shall become effective and shall have the force of law upon adjournment sine die of the session unless specifically disapproved by resolution of either house of the General Assembly or specifically modified by joint resolution of both houses of the General Assembly.”
Cooper and Stein Hailed by LGBT Activist Groups
Both actions were jointly applauded by the ACLU and Lambda Legal. The lawsuit against HB 142 filed by the two groups is still pending.
With a ruling expected next week, Stein’s attempt to settle the suit is likely a pre-emptive strike in order achieve the desired outcome for the groups involved. Perhaps coincidentally, in the 2016 campaign cycle, Roy Cooper was the recipient of the maximum allowed donation amount ($5,100) from Lambda Legal’s CEO, Rachel Tiven. At the time, Lambda Legal was suing North Carolina over House Bill 2 and Cooper, then the attorney general, had publicly refused to defend the state in the matter.
The Human Rights Campaign, considered to be mainly responsible for the illegal Charlotte Ordinance, also released a statement. The statement harped on a theme of ‘all or nothing’, saying that, “even with the executive order, North Carolina still does not and cannot truly protect LGBTQ people, especially transgender people, from discrimination because of House Bill (HB) 142.”
Local LGBT activist group, Equality NC, also said the Governor’s order wasn’t enough. According to ABC 11, Equality NC’s Interim Director Matt Hirschy said that “I think this is a fantastic step in the right direction. What I’m saying is, the governor could have done more here and should have done more here.”
Cooper and Stein Slammed For Breaking Promises
Rep. Dan Bishop, the primary author of House Bill 2, was the first to respond on social media. Bishop blasted both Cooper and Stein.
“It is the epitome of a collusive settlement. And an attack on the rule of law worthy of … well, I won’t say who,” wrote Rep. Bishop on Facebook. “So much for the truce. I warned it would be fleeting.”
Leaders at the North Carolina legislature responded, saying that Cooper had broken his promise to stop fixating on social issues.
In a statement released on Thursday, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger blasted the Governor for his latest, “stunt.”
“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. We trust the court will reject the governor’s latest stunt.”
Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest also put out a statement slamming the Governor.
Governor Cooper’s Executive Order once again opens the bathroom stall for those who would seek to do women and children harm while falsely claiming they are transgender. While I take at face value the Governor’s intent to help transgender people use the bathroom of their identity, his order creates a legal loophole that will be exploited by non-transgender pedophiles, stalkers and perverts. All bathrooms at state rest areas, parks and museums will now be fertile ground for sexual deviants who will falsely claim to be transgender to gain protected access to our women and children. – Lt. Governor Dan Forest
Not only are Cooper and Stein ‘opening the stall door’ again, but the moves contradict statements made by Cooper regarding “social issues.”
On the campaign trail, Cooper’s campaign and fundraising were fixated on bathrooms and House Bill 2, yet he promised to stop focusing on social issues.
After taking office, Cooper said in his State of the State address that he would find “the common ground we seek” and “listen to North Carolinians urging us to set aside divisive social issues and political power struggles.”
Cooper and Stein “Betrayed the people of North Carolina”
The Family Values Coalition was a leader in the fight to support House Bill 2 in 2016. Tami Fitzgerald, Executive Director of NC Values Coalition, also issued a statement.
“The Governor’s and Attorney General’s actions today constitute a massive power grab, with sweeping changes that only the Legislative Branch has the authority to enact,” wrote Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald hammered Governor Cooper for signing HB 142, then turning around and “betraying the people of North Carolina with an Executive Order that not only allows boys and men into girls’ and women’s showers and bathrooms, but also forces private businesses to adopt sweeping LGBT special rights.”
“Josh Stein has betrayed the people of NC by failing to defend the laws of the state and, instead, elevating LGBT privileges above the rights of common everyday people to privacy and safety in Bathrooms and showers,” added Fitzgerald.