WASHINGTON, D.C. — At a conference for the Center for American Progress, Gov. Roy Cooper pledged Tuesday that he will soon deliver an executive order extending nondiscrimination protections for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina. However, his promised order could only apply to departments that the governor controls, and may be overridden by the Republican-controlled North Carolina General Assembly.
“I said when we repealed HB2 and initiated the compromise, we needed to take additional steps to make sure we protect LGBT residents,” Cooper told the News & Observer. “We’re working on an executive order that will help further those goals.”
With the sympathetic Washington crowd, Gov. Cooper also attempted to explain his role in passing HB 142, the controversial HB 2 “repeal” that banned cities and municipalities from enacting LGBTQ nondiscrimination protections through Dec. 2020.
“I had a choice: Do I continue to make a statement and pound on table and nothing happen, or take a positive step and make progress and continue to fight?” Cooper said at the conference. “As governor and as leader of my state, knowing what it has done to the reputation of my state and the signal it sends to LGBT citizens and everyone I knew, we had to make a step, and that’s why I did it.”
Cooper is not the first governor to extend LGBTQ protections through an executive order. Former Gov. Pat McCrory did so shortly after the passage of HB 2. McCrory’s order protected state employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but reinforced the bathroom provisions of HB2.
“Governor McCrory’s executive order is a day late and a veto short,” then-Attorney-General Cooper responded. “I’m glad Governor McCrory has finally acknowledged the great damage his legislation has done, but he needs to do much more. The truth is, this executive order doesn’t change the fact that HB2 has written discrimination into the law.”
Legal discrimination against LGBTQ people continues in spite of the “repeal” legislation, HB 142. Gov. Cooper acknowledged that HB 142 is not a sufficient solution. In response to a voter’s critical letter, the governor’s Deputy Press Secretary Samantha Cole released a regurgitated statement:
“Governor Cooper has said that the compromise to repeal HB2 was the first step but that it cannot be the last step,” Cole wrote to qnotes. “It was not his preferred solution, but now he is focused on fighting for statewide protections for LGBT North Carolinians.”