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@NCCapitol

Citing 'conflicting statements' from Cooper, McCrory administration to defend HB2

Posted June 2, 2016 12:46 p.m. EDT
Updated June 2, 2016 2:00 p.m. EDT

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and Democratic Attorney General Roy Cooper are running for governor in 2016.

— Gov. Pat McCrory's office said Thursday that his administration plans to handle the state's defense against a federal lawsuit over House Bill 2.

The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state last month, alleging that House Bill 2 violates the civil rights of transgender state workers and university students by requiring them to use public bathrooms that correspond to their birth gender.

The Governor's Office said in a news release that Attorney General Roy Cooper was flip-flopping on his position of refusing to defend the state law, so the McCrory administration would represent the state in the lawsuit to avoid "conflicting statements."

Cooper, a Democrat who is running against McCrory in the gubernatorial race, called House Bill 2 a "national embarrassment" shortly after it was passed in a one-day emergency legislative session in March, and he has repeatedly said his office wouldn't defend it.

The release from McCrory's office included links to federal court filings to indicate Cooper's "quiet reversal" on House Bill 2.

"The Attorney General reversed his position without consulting any of the defendants in the lawsuit, and he did not make any public announcement that he had entered the case to represent the State of North Carolina," the release states. "Both the Attorney General and his campaign made public statements as recently as (Wednesday) that undermine the state’s position and contradict the legal filings by his office."

Samantha Cole, a spokeswoman for Cooper's office, said that the filings for two special deputy attorneys general to make appearances on behalf of the state to request that the deadline to respond to the lawsuit be extended to July 18 are simply that – a request for more time – and not any indication that Cooper has changed his position on House Bill 2.

"The Attorney General’s Office has informed counsel for the Governor that this office gives him permission to represent the state," Cole said in an email to WRAL News.

Cooper campaign spokesman Ford Porter went further, calling the release from McCrory's office disingenuous.

"This is just more misinformation from Governor McCrory on the truth about HB2," Porter said in a statement. "Attorney General Cooper continues to stand against this discriminatory law that is driving jobs and people away from our state."

McCrory's campaign responded by calling on Cooper to resign because he refuses to defend a state law.

"Roy Cooper should resign immediately not only for gross incompetence, but also the serious professional and ethical conflicts of interests he has brought upon himself by siding with the Obama administration instead of defending North Carolina," McCrory campaign spokesman Ricky Diaz said in a statement.