Commentary, HB2, News

Lawyer who defended HB2 now the Trump administration’s top civil rights chief

Another day, another outrage from the Trump administration. This is from a story by Rebekah Entralgo of Think Progress entitled “New civil rights chief at Justice Department has spent his career undermining civil rights”:

Thomas Wheeler, the Assistant Acting Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) division that handles policing, discrimination, and voting rights cases, announced he would be leaving his position after just 6 months.

John Gore, a Republican lawyer in Washington, will serve in the interim until Trump’s nominee for the position, Eric Dreiband, secures a hearing. Gore most notably represented the University of North Carolina system after it was sued by the Obama administration over the state’s HB2 bathroom bill. Gore is a former partner at Jones Day—the law firm from which the Trump administration has pulled at least 14 attorneys from to join the president’s team, including the White House Counsel Don McGahn. According to Election Law Blog, Gore’s now-deleted bio on the Jones Day website stated Gore had been “actively involved in redistricting litigation” in private practice and listed six cases in which he defended state governments accused of violating the Voting Rights Act through gerrymandering. (Emphasis supplied.)

Gore represented Florida Governor Rick Scott in a case over his administration’s attempt to purge the state’s voter rolls of potential noncitizens before the 2012 election. The move disproportionately affected Florida’s Hispanic community, which made up only 13% of the 11.3 million active registered voters in Florida at the time, yet were 58% of those identified as potential noncitizens. A federal appeals court ruled in 2014 the purge was found to have violated the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which prevents purging of voter rolls 90 days before an election….

Gore will not permanently maintain the job: Trump nominated Washington labor lawyer Eric Dreiband to serve as assistant attorney general in the civil rights division, but hasn’t yet been confirmed. Dreiband, however, also has a poor record on civil rights, and many activists have already voiced their opposition to Dreiband’s nomination….

Dreiband, also a former Jones Day attorney, has represented a tobacco company in an age discrimination case and Bloomberg in a pregnancy discrimination case. In his most high-profile case, Dreiband defended Abercrombie & Fitch in a Supreme Court case when the clothing retailer was sued for refusing to hire a 17-year-old Muslim woman because her headscarf was in violation of the company’s dress code, a case which Dreiband lost.

HB2, News

Gov. Cooper pledges to issue ‘comprehensive’ executive order protecting LGBTQ individuals

Gov. Roy Cooper told a group of people at the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference in Washington D.C. that he plans to issue an executive order to increase protections for the LGBTQ community in North Carolina, according to The Huffington Post.

“I’m going to issue an executive order pretty soon that is comprehensive, that helps with LGBT protections and we’re going to keep working every day,” he said during the Center for American Progress’ Ideas Conference.

Cooper’s office told HuffPost they could not immediately give additional details about the order. His office was not immediately available for a similar request from NC Policy Watch.

His vow to issue the order comes in the wake of House Bill 142, which repealed HB2, the state’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation, but replaced it with language that bans local governments from enacting future anti-discrimination protections until 2020.

The new law also states that the General Assembly will dictate future bathroom policies.

The Huffington Post reports what Cooper told folks at the conference about his role in HB2’s repeal compromise — a move that was criticized by LGBTQ and civil rights organizations.

On Tuesday, Cooper said he wanted a clean repeal without a compromise but didn’t think it would be feasible, since North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature operates under the Hastert Rule. That means one has to have the majority of one’s own party to get anything considered on the floor.

“I had a choice. Do I continue to make a statement and pound the table and nothing happen? Or do I take a positive step, make progress and continue to fight?” he said. “I chose the latter for my state because we got rid of the birth certificate requirement. We opened up the ability of local governments to provide some protections now and some in the future.”

You can read the full article here.

Below is a video of Cooper at the Conference.

HB2, News

Chris Sgro stepping down as Executive Director Equality N.C.

 

Chris Sgro, executive director of Equality North Carolina.advocacy group announced this morning its executive director, Chris Sgro, is stepping down after nearly four years.LGBTQ advocacy group announced this morning its executive director, Chris Sgro, is stepping down after nearly four years.

LGBTQ advocacy group Equality North Carolina announced this morning its executive director, Chris Sgro, is stepping down after nearly four years.

Sgro is moving to Washington, D.C. to become Director of Communications with the Human Rights Campaign.

Sgro became widely known as one of the faces of the struggle against HB2, even briefly serving in the N.C. House as the General Assembly’s only out gay member when he finished the term of late Rep. Ralph Johnson (D-Guilford).

“Serving as Executive Director of Equality North Carolina for nearly four years has been an honor for me,” Sgro said in a statement Friday morning. “Together, we have accomplished so much. I realize that there is much left to be done to achieve true equality across the state, and I know that the talented staff and committed board of directors will continue to work with LGBTQ North Carolinians, day after day, to fight against discrimination from Murphy to Manteo. ”

“Equality North Carolina has never been about me,” Sgro said. ” Equality NC is the oldest state-based LGBTQ equality group in the country, and since its founding, its mission has been to advance both the legal and lived equality of LGBTQ North Carolinians. Equality NC has never been stronger than it is today because our community stepped up during the HB2 battle to stand with us to fight discrimination in our state. We will always stand with them.”

Equality NC credited Sgro with helping to build “a permanent coalition of over 500 pro-equality business voices, [grow] a faith program focused on building a group of affirming faith leaders in both urban and rural parts of the state, and [hiring] the organization’s first-ever Director of Transgender Policy.”

The group’s board of directors are beginning a national search for Sgro’s successor.

Sgro’s announcement comes the same week Rev. William Barber, the nationally renowned leader of the NC NAACP, announced he would step down to begin a new national poor peoples’ campaign in the vein of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

Courts & the Law, HB2, News

Plaintiffs in HB2 lawsuit intend to challenge HB142; defendants won’t take position on law until it’s filed

The lawsuit over House Bill 2 is at a standstill until the plaintiffs file an amended complaint to include a challenge to HB142, which repealed the sweeping anti-LGBTQ law and replaced it with different discriminatory language.

A report was filed with the federal court Friday with updates on the case from all parties involved, including their positions, or lack thereof, on moving forward.

In the document, the plaintiffs — Joaquin Carcaño, Payton Grey McGarry, Angela Gilmore, Hunter Schafer, Beverly Newell and Kelly Trent — state they intend to file an amended complaint asserting federal constitutional and statutory claims against HB142.

The plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU and Lambda Legal.

A couple paragraphs from the report give a preview of what might be included in the amended complaint:

“Although H.B. 142 purports to ‘repeal’ H.B. 2, in actuality H.B. 142 perpetuates many of H.B. 2’s harms, as well as H.B. 2’s stigmatization of transgender individuals and those who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual
(collectively “LGBT” people).

H.B. 142 discriminates against transgender individuals in exercising one of life’s most basic and essential functions: using the restroom. Under Section 2 of H.B. 142, state agencies and local governments are forbidden from establishing—and transgender individuals are barred from obtaining the protection of—policies ensuring the right of transgender individuals to use the restroom or other single-sex, multi-user facilities consistent with their gender identity. Further, until December 2020, Sections 3 and 4 of H.B. 142 block local governments from protecting LGBT people against discrimination in employment and public accommodations. By targeting all LGBT people for disfavored treatment and singling out transgender individuals for additional discrimination, H.B. 142 violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and due process under the U.S. Constitution.”

The defendants in the case — the University of North Carolina, legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper — state in the report that it would be premature to take a position on HB142 before an amended complaint is filed with the court.

Cooper states in the filing that he “may be in position to consent to Plaintiffs’ filing of a Fourth Amended Complaint, and intends to proceed as appropriate thereafter depending on the nature of the allegations.”

You can read the full document here.

Governor Roy Cooper, HB2, News

New Elon Poll on Cooper approval, HB2, medical marijuana

The latest Elon University Poll results give a look at North Carolinians’ views on Gov. Roy Cooper, the General Assembly, the effect of HB2 on the state’s reputation and the question of legalizing marijuana.

The live-caller, dual frame (landline and cell phone) survey of 506 likely voters was conducted from April 18-21. The latest released results feature responses from registered voters classified as likely voters in the Nov. 8 election and has a margin of error of +/- 4.36 percentage points.

The poll found that nearly half of respondents approve of the job Roy Cooper is doing as governor.

“Governor Cooper is clearly enjoying a honeymoon period of public support in North Carolina,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll, in a release Tuesday. “That he is 19 points net positive in an otherwise divided state gives him some leeway to use soft power even as the legal powers of the office have recently declined.”

“Governor McCrory had positive approval numbers very similar to Governor Cooper’s when the Elon Poll first asked about McCrory’s job performance in April 2013,” Husser said. “Governors have a tendency to become less popular over time. However, Cooper is currently in a strong position to craft a solid foundation of support in North Carolina.”

Of course, Cooper’s approval is split by party.

Seventy percent of Democrats said they approve the job he is doing while just 24 percent of Republicans said they approve. Half of independent voters – a large and growing group of voters in North Carolina – said they approve of Cooper’s performance.

The North Carolina General Assembly did not fair as well in the poll. Fifty-four percent of respondents said they disapprove of the job the General Assembly is doing. While Democrats and black voters were the most likely to disapprove of the legislature, it’s worth noting that the poll found 38 percent of Republicans also disapprove of the job the GOP dominated legislature is doing.

In a related question, the poll asked respondents about HB2’s impact on the state’s national reputation. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they believe it has made North Carolina’s reputation worse.

There were also some interesting responses on marijuana legalization. Eighty percent of respondents said they would support legalizing marijuana for medical use while 45 percent said they would support its legalization for recreational use.

For more information from the poll – including questions on concealed carry gun permits and environmental questions – see the full poll, including more information on methodology.