North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday vetoed three bills that target LGBTQ youth, setting up a likely effort by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature to override him.
Cooper’s vetoes were expected as he has been a vocal opponent of legislation targeting LGBTQ youth this session, putting him at odds with state Republicans, who have introduced at least 12 anti-LGBTQ bills this legislative session, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. The legislature’s Republican supermajority has the ability to override a potential veto, as they have done several times this year when Cooper has sought to block controversial measures.
The bills rejected by the governor Wednesday include a ban on gender-affirming care for minors, restrictions on how gender identity can be discussed in schools, and a measure to prohibit transgender athletes from competing on girls’ sports teams. State lawmakers passed the legislation last month, largely along party lines.
Cooper, in a statement announcing the action, accused GOP lawmakers of “scheming for the next election” by “hurting vulnerable children” and pushing “political culture wars.”
“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,” Cooper said, referring to HB808, which would ban certain gender-affirming care for minors. “Ordering doctors to stop following approved medical protocols sets a troubling precedent and is dangerous for vulnerable youth and their mental health.”
Republican sponsors of the measures, meanwhile, criticized Cooper’s vetoes.
State Sen. Joyce Krawiec, who sponsored HB 808, said in a statement that the governor had “turned a blind eye to the protection of children,” adding that the legislature is “taking the safest approach by limiting access to these life-altering medical procedures until a child comes of age.”
HB 808 would prohibit medical professionals from performing surgical gender transition procedures, prescribing puberty-blocking drugs and providing hormone treatments for those under the age of 18, though there are extremely limited exceptions for certain disorders. If a doctor breaks the law, the bill calls for their medical license to be revoked.
Cooper also vetoed HB 574, which would ban transgender girls and women from competing on middle school, high school and college sports teams that align with their gender identity. The bill states that a “student’s sex shall be recognized based solely on the student’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth,” and would require sports teams to be designated as for males, men or boys; females, women or girls; or coed or mixed.
SB 49, a third bill vetoed by Cooper, requires that parents be notified “prior to any changes in the name or pronoun used for a student in school records or by school personnel,” as well as bans instruction on “gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Cooper said in a statement that the measure “hampers the important and sometimes lifesaving role of educators as trusted advisers when students have nowhere else to turn.”
Advocacy groups applauded Cooper, with Liz Barber, the senior policy counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, saying: “Legislators are using their power to bully an already vulnerable community, and Governor Cooper has taken an important step by vetoing these bills.”
LGBTQ rights have become a major flash point nationwide, with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in many states moving to advance or curb protections, respectively. Last week, Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a ban on gender-affirming care for most minors in the state – another Democratic governor to push back on a GOP-led legislature’s efforts to restrict transgender youth’s access to such treatments.