North Carolina attorney general Roy Cooper said in a Tuesday morning press conference that he will not defend North Carolina's "shameful new law," the discriminatory House Bill 2, in a lawsuit brought against the state
by Lambda Legal, the ACLU of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina.
Though as state attorney general he is named as a defendant in the complaint, Cooper cal led the bill "legislation that puts discrimination into law," and said it clearly targets the LGBT community.
Cooper said his office could not defend House Bill 2 because it is in direct conflict with the North Carolina Department of Justice's own nondiscrimination policy. Among other classes, the DOJ's Equal Employment Opportunity Plan protects employees on the basis of marital status and sexual orientation, two classes that are not covered by the new state law.
In defending his office's nondiscrimination policy and a similar policy at the state treasurer's office, Cooper says he would argue that House Bill 2 is unconstitutional.
"I believe in 2001 when we adopted it and I believe now that our policy is not only the right thing to do but it sends a necessary and vital signal as we recruit and retain the very best and brightest employees here at the Department of Justice," Cooper said. "Many top law firms in our state provide these protections as well, and we need to. I made a promise. Employees who get the job done here should be welcomed without fear of discrimination."
During the press conference, Senate leader Phil Berger sent out a statement calling on Cooper to resign for not fulfilling his duties as attorney general.
"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 Berger. “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 said in refusing to defend the law he is doing his job, because he can't simultaneously defend his office's nondiscrimination policy as well as the state's, which does not prevent discrimination against the LGBT community and others. He also defended his record as attorney general, and his decision to run for governor.
"My office has stepped up and defended some bad legislation that I do not agree with," Cooper said. "We do our job in this office. We have seen legislation passed that hurts North Carolinians, that hurts people's ability to register and vote. Our office is required, and we have stepped up to defend those cases, regardless of consequences."
Cooper called on McCrory and the legislature to "put the partisan politics aside" and change or repeal the law to "repair our national reputation."
"Every day working people are already struggling in North Carolina's economy and this law will hurt them even more," he said. "Swift action is required to keep our state and citizens from losing money."