North Carolina's Top Attorney: Governor Didn't Tell Me He Was Suing Over Bathroom Law

Attorney General Roy Cooper is challenging Gov. Pat McCrory in this year's election.

WASHINGTON -- North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) did not tell his state's top attorney he would be suing the U.S. Department of Justice over the state's controversial bathroom law, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) said on Monday.

"Our office wasn't notified or consulted about today's legal action," Noelle Talley, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Department of Justice, told The Huffington Post. She clarified that the office wasn't notified about the lawsuit either before or after it was filed. 

“If they want to join the lawsuit, they can always sign on in support," Ricky Diaz, a campaign spokesman for McCrory, told HuffPost. "But the attorney general has made it very clear he has no intention of doing his job to defend the state. In reality, North Carolina really hasn't had an attorney general for years." 

Attorneys general are responsible for defending state laws, but it's also not uncommon for them to step into the political fray when running for higher office. In North Carolina, Cooper is challenging McCrory for the governor's seat. Cooper has said he will not defend the controversial law, which bars transgender people from using public restrooms that don't correspond with the sex on their birth certificates.

"Instead of doing what's right for our state, [McCrory is] doubling down on what he knows he did wrong," Cooper said in a video statement Monday.

McCrory filed his lawsuit after the U.S. Justice Department warned him that North Carolina's provision violates civil rights laws and could result in the state being stripped of federal funds. The feds wanted McCrory to agree by Monday to "remedy these violations." After he refused, the Justice Department announced it was filing its own federal civil rights complaint against him.

In their court filing, McCrory and the secretary for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety called the Justice Department's position a "baseless and blatant overreach." They want the court to clarify federal law and issue a finding that the state is not violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, among other categories -- and the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

The attorney general's office is not listed on the lawsuit. Instead, private attorneys are named, along with the general counsel for the governor's office. Cooper said in March that he would not defend the law against a separate suit filed by civil rights organizations, calling it "a national embarrassment."

He took another dig at the governor this week. "Governor McCrory signed HB2 into law in the dark of night after passing it in just 12 hours, and now complains when he’s given five days to defend it,” Ford Porter, a spokesman for Cooper's gubernatorial campaign, said in a statement. “The governor needs to undo this law now and stop playing politics with our economy.”

A top Republican attorney in another state has taken a different view. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) said in a statement Monday that he "stands with Governor McCrory and the people of North Carolina regarding this unconstitutional form of federal overreach.”  

Whether or not it's to win political points, Cooper joins a number of other attorneys general in recent years who have refused to defend laws they say are discriminatory against the LGBT community. In March 2014, over a year before the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized marriage equality nationwide, at least seven attorneys general had already refused to defend their states' bans on same-sex marriage.

After that landmark case, known as Obergefell v. Hodges, they ended up on the winning side of history.

This story has been updated to include comment from McCrory's campaign spokesman.