Roy Cooper – Photo: WUNC-TV.
On Tuesday night, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his rival, Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper, sparred in a televised debate over HB 2, a law that restricts rights and protections for LGBT North Carolinians. Throughout the debate, McCrory defended his decision to sign the law into effect, while Cooper alleged that the governor was ignoring the negative impact the law has had on the state’s reputation and economy, according to ABC News.
McCrory sought to shift some of the blame for the fallout from the law onto Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts and the Charlotte City Council for their attempts to pass an LGBT-inclusive ordinance prohibiting discrimination in employment, housing, credit and public accommodations. According to McCrory, the City Council’s actions forced the General Assembly to act, ostensibly under the guise of protecting cisgender women from having to share intimate spaces like restrooms and locker rooms with transgender women. He also blamed Cooper for refusing to defend the law in court.
“The thing that’s embarrassing is that a very liberal mayor with very strong support from our very liberal attorney general started this whole bathroom mess,” McCrory said.
But Cooper said the governor has no one to blame but himself and the Republican-led legislature, adding that the law needs to be repealed. He also accused McCrory of turning a blind eye to the spate of bad news that North Carolina has received since passing the law. Some negative ramifications of the law include decisions by major corporations to scuttle plans for expansion in the state, cancellations by entertainers or various groups who had planned to hold concerts or conferences in the state, the loss of the 2017 NBA All-Star Game to New Orleans, and the relocation of several NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference championships to other states.
McCrory has “continued to go across this state and say this is not hurting our economy … and says that everything is going fine,” Cooper retorted. “Gov. McCrory, what planet are you on?”
As passed into law, HB 2 prevents localities like Charlotte from passing nondiscrimination protections for LGBT residents, and requires transgender people to use only those public bathrooms and locker rooms designated for their biological sex at birth as listed on their birth certificate, even if an individual has had gender confirmation surgery.
Moderator Chuck Todd of NBC asked the candidates which bathroom transgender reality star Caitlyn Jenner should use were she to visit Charlotte. McCrory responded that while Jenner should be allowed to use any restroom that the private sector allows her to use, she should not be permitted to use public restrooms or shower facilities designated for women. Cooper hedged on the question, saying that local governments should be allowed to make their own decisions on such issues.
Cooper also criticized McCrory for allowing a bill to become law without his signature that takes $500,000 from a disaster recovery fund to help cover the cost of defending HB 2 against several lawsuits challenging its constitutionality. McCrory has insisted he does not support such a move. This issue was especially relevant given the impact of Hurricane Matthew on the state, which has left hundreds of thousands of people without power and led thousands of others in the low-lying eastern part of the state to evacuate.
Prior to the debate, LGBT advocates highlighted a report from Buzzfeed that showed that, just nine minutes after declaring a disaster area in 66 of the state’s counties, McCrory chose to campaign in support of HB 2 with a bevy of anti-LGBT leaders, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. The Southern Poverty Law Center has classified that organization as a “hate group.” In response, the Human Rights Campaign issued a statement calling McCrory’s decision to campaign as a natural disaster was looming a sign of his “misplaced priorities” and an example of “putting himself first, playing the victim while real people were suffering.”