(CN) – North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced his office won’t defend a sweeping new state law that prevents local governments from protecting people from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The law, which was signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last week, was rushed through the state legislature by lawmakers who wanted to overturn an impending Charlotte ordinance that would have provided broad protections against discrimination in the state’s largest city, and also would have allowed transgender people to use public restrooms aligned with their gender identity.
The new law also prohibits counties, cities and other local municipalities from extending protections related to sexual orientation at hotels, restaurants and other businesses.
It also requires university and other public school students to use only those bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
Its passage was followed, on March 28, by the filing of a lawsuit by a lesbian law school professor and two transgender people who claim that “by singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, (the new law) violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution.”
The state attorney general, who is a Democratic candidate for governor, on Tuesday called the measure signed into law last week a “national embarrassment.”
“We are here because the governor has signed statewide legislation that puts discrimination in the law,” Cooper said.
He also took note of a growing number of major corporations and sports organizations who have condemned the new law.
Shortly before Cooper made his comments, a letter to Gov. McCrory signed by the CEOs of Apple, Facebook, American Airlines, IBM and several other tech firms and corporations was released by opponents of the bill.
“Discrimination is wrong and we believe it has no place in North Carolina or anywhere in our country,” the letter said. “As companies that pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all, we strongly urge you and the leadership of North Carolina’s legislature to repeal this law in the upcoming legislative session.
Cooper said the discontent of the CEOs could “set North Carolina’s economy back if we don’t repeal [the law].”
But McCory contended Tuesday that he and the state are the victims of a campaign that is “distorting” the intent of the law, which he said was to protect the privacy of people who expect to share restrooms and locker rooms and the like with people of the same birth gender.
At the same time, a group called the North Carolina Values Coalition, which supports McCrory and the law, released a statement saying hundreds of business owners support the governor, but are afraid to do so publicly for fear of a backlash from the LGBT community.
But Cooper was undeterred. In announcing his decision not to defend the state against the pending lawsuit, he noted that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced on Monday that he would veto a “religious freedom” bill, that was also roundly criticized as being discriminatory.
McCrory should have done the same, he said.
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