CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The North Carolina legislature, dominated by Republicans since 2011, has spent a considerable sum legally defending its own laws. The Charlotte Observer reported recently that of $10.5 million, $1.2 million has been spent defending HB2 in court. The GOP claims that this use of public funds is the fault of Attorney General Roy Cooper, who holds the lead in a contested election for the gubernatorial race against incumbent Pat McCrory.
Cooper’s post as Attorney General obligates him to defend laws passed by the legislative majority. Although he spoke out against many of the controversial laws, he did defend them in court—except for HB2. Cooper spoke out against the law vehemently, and it may be the issue that wins him the governor’s seat.
“Roy Cooper’s refusal to do the job he was elected to do is the main reason the legislature has been forced to hire outside counsel,” Senate majority leader Phil Berger’s spokeswoman told The Charlotte Observer.
Other sources disagree, citing an unusually large number of active cases. The North Carolina GOP’s various laws have been hotly contested in court.
“There was no option but to get some outside help,” said Sen. Bob Rucho. “They didn’t have enough attorneys to meet the challenge.”
Meanwhile, the federal court date to decide the fate of HB2 has been postponed until the summer of 2017. This decision, made in October, was influenced by the Supreme Court’s announcement that it would hear the case of Gavin Grimm. Grimm, a Virginian transgender high school student, sued for access to the boy’s bathroom of his high school. The Supreme Court’s decision may establish an important precedent according to National Center for Lesbian Rights legal director Shannon Minter.
“[The decision] may ensure that transgender people are accepted and included as equal members of our society, or it may relegate them to outsiders for decades to come,” Minter said.
However, it isn’t just the bathroom provisions that make HB2 controversial. The law also limits non-discrimination protections and the ability to sue over discrimination at the state level. These less-publicized aspects of the bill may end up as collateral damage even if Cooper’s election is secured and his administration prioritizes the HB2 repeal.
“We do not have a legislature that will repeal the law,” said Amy Bright, ECU GLBT executive board member. “The really bad portions of the law that negatively impact everyone in the state, not just the LGBT community, are going to stand and that’s the tragedy of the whole situation.”