Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday morning he will soon announce an executive order addressing protections for the LGBT community.
The Democratic governor made the remark to a sympathetic audience in Washington, D.C., where he said he would also continue to fight against discrimination and push for voting rights and education funding.
Cooper spoke at a conference of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank and advocacy group that supports Democratic politicians. The daylong event was packed with prominent Democrats, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Maxine Waters of California, former ambassador Susan Rice and billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer.
In a question-and-answer segment with the organization’s executive vice president for policy, Carmel Martin, Cooper explained his decision to accept a compromise repeal of HB2 even though it left him at odds with some activists and members of his own party.
“My goal is statewide LGBT protections in North Carolina, and I’m going to keep fighting every day until I get to that point,” he said, to applause. “… It would have been politically and probably emotionally easier for me to keep pounding the table and not accept a compromise but I knew it wasn’t right.”
Cooper was criticized from advocates on both sides of the issue Tuesday.
Chris Sgro, executive director of the LGBT-rights group Equality N.C., tweeted in response: “@RoyCooperNC continued refusal to take responsibility for negative consequences on LGBT community of bill he signed is disheartening.”
“At a conference funded by George Soros and dedicated to radical resistance and rebellion, Governor Roy Cooper today declared war on privacy protections for women and children in bathrooms, locker rooms, and showers,” Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the N.C. Values Coalition, said in a statement. “Cooper renewed his call for special treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals at the expense of families, who will lose their privacy, safety, and dignity. He has also demonstrated that he is beholden to radicals like George Soros and out-of-state groups like the Human Rights Campaign to fund his campaign.”
Cooper did not elaborate on the executive order on LGBT protections, which would only apply to the departments that the governor controls. Asked about it in a later phone interview, Cooper said he had promised to do more.
“I said when we repealed HB2 and initiated the compromise, we needed to take additional steps to make sure we protect LGBT residents,” he said. “We’re working on an executive order that will help further those goals.”
Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order in April 2016 that expanded nondiscrimination protections for state employees to include sexual orientation and gender identity. It left the controversial bathroom provisions of HB2 intact.
Cooper also predicted that within 10 days the N.C. General Assembly will pass a bill to circumvent Monday’s announcement that the U.S. Supreme Court would let stand a lower court ruling that struck down North Carolina’s voter ID requirement and other provisions in a 2013 law. GOP leaders have said they will continue to pursue such a law.
“North Carolina is an epicenter in the country for the fight for the right to vote,” Cooper said at the Four Seasons Hotel. “This General Assembly doesn’t stop. This was a temporary win yesterday.”
Cooper said his action withdrawing the state’s appeal of the lower-court ruling helped the Supreme Court decide not to hear it.
The governor repeated some of his campaign themes, including pushing for a better-educated workforce that will pay off in terms of individual paychecks and in attracting more business to the state: improving high school graduation rates, making community college more affordable and increasing the number of advanced degrees and skills certification.
He said Democrats should address the concerns of those who voted for President Donald Trump.
“We have got to have a positive, pocketbook message for them,” Cooper said.