On Wednesday, Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a trio of anti-trans bills passed by wide margins in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate. The three bills would ban gender-affirming care for minors, prohibit trans athletes in school sports, and limit classroom discussions about gender and sexuality.
Despite the governor’s vetoes, prospects for killing the legislation are poor. Republicans hold veto-proof majorities in both state chambers.
Cooper condemned the bills as “a triple threat of political culture wars” and accused Republicans of “scheming for the next election” at the expense of vulnerable children.
“A doctor’s office is no place for politicians,” said Copper, echoing a popular line of defense among Democrats defending trans minors. “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,” Cooper said, referring to H.B. 808, which would ban puberty blockers and hormone therapy for trans youth in the state.
Cooper also vetoed H.B. 574, a ban on athletes competing on middle school, high school, and college sports teams that align with their gender identity. A “student’s sex shall be recognized based solely on the student’s reproductive biology and genetics at birth,” the bill reads. Sports teams would be designated for males, men or boys; females, women or girls; or coed or mixed by those strict gender definitions.
The third bill vetoed by Cooper, S.B. 49, would ban instruction on “gender identity, sexual activity, or sexuality” in kindergarten through fourth grade and require parents to be notified “prior to any changes in the name or pronoun used for a student in school records or by school personnel.”
Cooper denounced that measure as hampering “the important and sometimes lifesaving role of educators as trusted advisers when students have nowhere else to turn.”
Conservatives in North Carolina were trailblazers, pioneering the transphobic moral panic that has swept red states in the last two years.
In 2016, the state’s notorious “bathroom bill,” which banned trans people from public restrooms and shut down local efforts to enact anti-discrimination measures, cost North Carolina millions in lost business and was a national embarrassment. The law was partly repealed in 2017.
While Cooper’s vetoes will likely be overridden, activists hold out hope the courts will intervene, as they did then, on at least some of the legislation.
More than 20 states have enacted bans on gender-affirming care for minors, but almost all face court challenges. In June, a federal judge struck down Arkansas’ ban as unconstitutional, and federal judges have temporarily blocked bans in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Plaintiffs in Florida won a reprieve when a federal judge there blocked enforcement for three minor children.