North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced on March 29 that he would not represent the state of North Carolina in a lawsuit seeking to overturn the recently enacted House Bill 2, even though he is named as a defendant in the case. This is yet another example of a pattern adopted by our attorney general to abdicate his legal responsibility and to refuse service to the residents of North Carolina.
First, he refused service when the state’s Marriage Protection Amendment was being litigated, and then in a lawsuit seeking to overturn Senate Bill 2, which was passed last year to give magistrates and registers of deeds staff the right to recuse themselves from participating in civil marriages in North Carolina if they have a deeply held religious objection to doing so.
When Cooper made the announcement that he was refusing to fulfill his constitutional duty to represent the state in the lawsuit against HB 2, the ACLU and Equality NC cheered and applauded. Incidentally, the HB2 lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and national homosexual rights group, Lambda Legal on behalf of Equality NC.
What is so ironic and sad about this is that the ACLU and Equality NC derided the state legislature last year for passing SB2, which was designed to protect the religious liberty rights of civil servants in North Carolina. Equality NC called on Gov. Pat Pat McCrory to veto the bill stating, “no public official is exempt from the Constitution they’ve sworn to uphold.” They also claimed SB2 was “discriminatory legislation” because it would allow state employees to “refuse service” to the residents of North Carolina.
What is different about SB2 is that the General Assembly established the powers and duties of magistrates and registers of deeds, and it is well within the authority of our state lawmakers to change those powers and duties. If the legislature chooses to do so, which it did in SB2, magistrates and registers of deeds are fulfilling their oaths of office by following the new law.
The powers and duties of the attorney general, however, have not changed. As the top law enforcement officer and lawyer for the state of North Carolina, the attorney general is sworn to represent the state in legal matters, “To defend all actions in the appellate division in which the State shall be interested, or a party, and to appear for the State in any other court or tribunal in any cause or matter, civil or criminal, in which the State may be a party or interested” (NCGS § 114-2(1)). Clearly, the state is a party in the HB2 lawsuit.
Apparently in the eyes of Equality NC, it is entirely acceptable for the attorney general to “exempt” himself from his constitutional duties and to “refuse service” to the residents of North Carolina when it serves its purposes.
This is just another example of the hypocrisy and bully tactics of the left, which will say and do whatever is most expedient to promote its political agenda.
John L. Rustin is president of the N.C. Family Policy Council.