Republican leadership in the General Assembly is, once again, feeling forced to hire private counsel to defend a state law because Attorney General Roy Cooper, the state’s top lawyer charged with defending its laws, has publicly voiced opposition to a law. And, again, the divide is over gay marriage.
Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, and House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, announced today that they have “moved to intervene to defend a North Carolina law that protects the First Amendment religious freedom rights of magistrates and register of deeds employees while complying with the marriage law ordered by the courts.”
In their news release they said that Cooper has appeared as counsel contesting a legal challenge filed by political opponents of Senate Bill 2.
“However,” they said, “Cooper has publicly criticized the law, saying he would veto it if given the chance and making the same flawed claims as those suing the state. This is just one of numerous instances where the Attorney General has publicly denounced state laws he is supposed to be defending.”
“Once again, Roy Cooper is publicly disparaging the case of his clients – the people of North Carolina – and instead arguing the opposition’s case for them,” Berger and Moore said in their releasae. “Nobody in North Carolina would accept this behavior from his or her private lawyer, and the taxpayers should not have to in this case.”
While Senate Bill 2 has been law for roughly eight months, the plaintiffs in the suit were unable to identify even one couple who has been denied the ability to get married under it.
The General Assembly passed legislation in 2013 stating it “shall jointly have standing to intervene” in lawsuits. A year later Cooper said he would not defend the state’s law declaring marriage is between a man and a woman.
The legislature has hired counsel to work in addition to Cooper on a challenge to the state’s legislative redistricting that Cooper publicly opposed. Cooper, a Democratic pro-choice candidate for governor, previously spoke against a law requiring ultrasounds before an abortion can be performed, but did appeal a federal court decision striking that law down to the U.S. Supreme Court.