While pushing state legislators to "do the right thing," said one campaigner, "we remain clear-eyed that families should take steps to prepare if anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is enacted."
LGBTQ+ rights advocates on Wednesday celebrated after Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a trio of discriminatory bills while also warning that Republican state legislators could ultimately force them through.
Cooper has vetoed dozens of bills, but thanks to Democrat-turned-Republican state Rep. Tricia Cotham (112), the GOP has a three-fifths majority in both chambers of the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA), enabling lawmakers to override the governor.
"For campaign purposes only, Republicans are serving up a triple threat of political culture wars using government to invade the rights and responsibilities of parents and doctors, hurting vulnerable children, and damaging our state's reputation and economy like they did with the harmful bathroom bill," Cooper said in a statement confirming his three widely anticipated vetoes.
"We don't need politicians inflaming their political culture wars by making broad, uninformed decisions about an extremely small number of vulnerable children that are already handled by a robust system that relies on parents, schools, and sports organizations," he said of House Bill 574, which would bar transgender youth from participating in althetic teams that align with their gender identity.
"This slate of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is unacceptable—and we're grateful that Gov. Cooper made the right choice by vetoing."
The governor also vetoed House Bill 808, which would ban gender-affirming care for minors. He asserted that "a doctor's office is no place for politicians, and North Carolina should continue to let parents and medical professionals make decisions about the best way to offer gender care for their children. Ordering doctors to stop following approved medical protocols sets a troubling precedent and is dangerous for vulnerable youth and their mental health."
The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and at least hundreds of medical professionals across North Carolina support gender-affirming care for minors.
Cooper's third target, Senate Bill 49, is a "Don't Say Gay" measure that he argued would "scare teachers into silence by injecting fear and uncertainty into classrooms," and hamper "the important and sometimes lifesaving role of educators as trusted advisers when students have nowhere else to turn."
"The rights of parents are well established in state law," Cooper said, "so instead of burdening schools with their political culture wars, legislators should help them with better teacher pay and more investments in students."
Kendra R. Johnson, executive director of Equality North Carolina, said that "this slate of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is unacceptable—and we're grateful that Gov. Cooper made the right choice by vetoing. Now we implore the NCGA to do the right thing and recognize that this entire package of bills is dangerous, cruel, and deeply unpopular."
"These bills would tarnish North Carolina's reputation as an inclusive and welcoming place to live, work, and visit—and they would cause immense damage to transgender and queer youth, who already experience significant disparities," Johnson continued. "Anti-LGBTQ+ attacks have no place in North Carolina and the vetoes must be sustained."
Campaign for Southern Equality executive director Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara emphasized that "even as we will advocate tirelessly for the NCGA to do the right thing by sustaining Gov. Cooper’s veto, we remain clear-eyed that families should take steps to prepare if anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is enacted.
"Our team is at the ready to support families through our Southern Trans Youth Emergency Project to ensure that North Carolina youth have uninterrupted access to the healthcare they need and deserve," Beach-Ferrara added. "Each of these bills is flatly discriminatory and we are confident they will ultimately be struck down. We want LGBTQ+ youth across the state to know we are with them every step of the way and will never stop fighting for their equality."
North Carolina is far from the only state where the LGBTQ+ community—particularly young people—is facing such attacks.
Noting the hundreds of bills that GOP state lawmakers are pushing across the country, Liz Barber, senior policy counsel at the ACLU of North Carolina, said Wednesday that "legislators are using their power to bully an already vulnerable community, and Gov. Cooper has taken an important step by vetoing these bills."
"Trans youth deserve to have the same rights as their cisgender peers," Barber declared, stressing the need to continue to stand up for them.
According to the ACLU's tracker, during this year's legislative session, 77 of 491 anti-LGBTQ+ proposals have passed into law in 21 states, while 202 bills have been defeated, for now.
Such bills are expected to continue to come up in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race, given the positions of former President Donald Trump and GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. While there are several other candidates already in the contest, Trump continues to dominate polls, followed at a distance by DeSantis.