October 23, 2017
Roy Cooper isn’t a legislator -- but that hasn’t stopped the North Carolina governor from acting like one. Months after voters thought the bathroom issue was at least temporarily settled, the state’s liberal leader decided to reignite the North Carolina fight with an executive order that’s outraging people on both sides.
Despite agreeing to a compromise bill in March, Cooper is shocking everyone by wading back into the bathroom debate with a mandate that undermines the very legislation he signed! Under that law, H.B. 142, North Carolina put the brakes on any local ordinances that would fling open bathroom, shower, and locker room doors to people of both sexes until 2020. In the meantime, it left the regulation of those privacy policies to the legislature -- not colleges, city councils, or state agencies. Cooper has unilaterally decided to change that policy with a decree that not only lets grown men back into girls’ restrooms, but forces local businesses to embrace his transgender agenda or lose their government partnerships. Ignore your conscience and public safety concerns, the governor has decided, or kiss your North Carolina contracts goodbye.
Tami Fitzgerald, who heads up the North Carolina Values Coalition, called the move “a massive power grab, with sweeping changes that only the Legislative Branch has the authority to enact.” And by creating a special class for “gender identity,” the governor is opening the door to a lot more than bathrooms.
“It also means that anyone who has or seeks a government contract with the state or receives government benefits (like churches and religious organizations) will have to adopt internal operating policies that favor and give preference to people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender…” Fitzgerald argues. “[This will] force private business owners and religious organizations to choose between living out their faith in their businesses or ministry or keeping their government contracts. This will neuter the identities of private organizations and nonprofits by forcing them to adopt Roy Cooper’s radical agenda, by discriminating against these entities, refusing government benefits to groups just because they adhere to their religious beliefs.”
It’s exactly the nightmare lawmakers were trying to avoid when they passed the first round of privacy bills. Now, without consulting the legislature, Cooper is going around the state’s policymakers and trying to unravel the state’s duly-enacted law. And if the governor thought he’d have the support of LGBT activists, he was mistaken. “It’s not nearly enough,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality.
As if his executive order weren’t outrageous, Cooper is also pursuing a deal on the side with North Carolina judges -- a “consent decree” that would officially zero out the compromise law he signed last spring. Calling them “Harvey Weinstein Bathrooms,” conservatives are blasting the governor for negotiating a deal in March, only to use the courts to try and wiggle out of it. State Senator Dan Bishop (R) is just one of the leaders floored by Cooper’s audacity. “Gov. Cooper, Attorney General Josh Stein, and the ACLU propose a court ‘settlement’ that would guarantee access to opposite-sex restrooms, showers, and changing facilities, statewide…” he warned on social media. “It is the epitome of a collusive settlement. And an attack on the rule of law... So much for a truce. I warned it would be fleeting.”
Apart from the ACLU, no one is quite sure who Cooper is aiming to please. Not parents, who see the sexual assaults made possibly by policies like Cooper’s. And certainly not voters, only 28 percent of whom agree with radicals like the North Carolina governor. Perhaps he was too caught up in his own race to read the fallout from Hillary Clinton’s. In the aftermath of the election, local party chairmen and union bosses were outspoken about where Donald Trump’s opponent went wrong. “Look, I’m as progressive as anybody, okay? But people in the heartland thought the Democratic Party cared more about where someone else went to the restroom than whether they had a good-paying job,” Ohio’s David Betras complained. As the Washington Post pointed out in “Rust Belt Dems Broke for Trump Because They Thought Clinton Cared More about Bathrooms Than Jobs, “The local chairman feels very strongly now that Clinton could have won Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan if she had just kept her eye on economic issues and not gotten distracted by the culture wars.”
If the Left wants to go back to what failed, they don’t just do so at their peril – but the peril of countless women and children. Meanwhile, the next time someone wants to accuse conservatives of being obsessed with social issues, Cooper’s given them plenty of evidence to the contrary.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.