CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Attorney General Roy Cooper, who is challenging Gov. Pat McCrory for governor, spoke out against House Bill 2 Tuesday morning during a press conference.
Cooper said his office, "will not defend the constitutionality of the discrimination in House Bill 2."
McCrory signed the bill, called the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, last Wednesday after it was passed by the North Carolina Senate.
The law was in response to Charlotte's nondiscrimination ordinance that allowed transgender individuals to use public bathrooms of the sex with which they identify.
Cooper said HB2 is at odds with specific employment policies that are in place to protect workers based on gender identity.
"We will argue it is unconstitutional as part of our defense of existing employment policies in the Attorney General's and State Treasurer's Office," Cooper said.
Four organizations which have challenged the bill, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, Equality NC and Lambda Legal, released a statement following Cooper's press conference saying:
"As our lawsuit highlighted yesterday, House Bill 2 singles out the LGBT community for discrimination. That's not only incompatible with the state's constitutional and legal obligations but also our shared values as North Carolinians. We’re grateful the Attorney General stands on the on the right side of history with the many cities, states, businesses and individuals who have come out against this harmful measure."
The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
Gov. Pat McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper III, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and board Chairman W. Louis Bissette Jr. were listed as defendants in the suit.
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) responded to the attorney general's announcement Tuesday, calling for Cooper's resignation.
Berger said Cooper's unwillingness to stand behind the law put children in North Carolina at risk.
"Roy Cooper’s refusal to defend the law makes clear he wants the ACLU to win by default in federal court what they can’t win at the ballot box and allow men to walk into locker rooms at YMCAs across our country and undress in front of young girls," Berger said in a statement on his website.
In an interview with NBC News Monday, McCrory dismissed widespread criticism of the bill, calling it a "calculated smear campaign."
He continued, saying, "This national political campaign directed toward North Carolina, I think, is well-coordinated and more political theater than reality."
Since the bill was signed into law New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray banned all non-essential publically funded travel to North Carolina. Others are now threatening to boycott High Point's massive semi-annual furniture trade show.
"Dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have canceled plans to attend the Market in April due to [the] passage of HB2. There are also several campaigns on social media calling for a boycott of the High Point Market this spring," the authority said in a statement.
Gov. McCrory responded to Cooper's press conference in a YouTube video on Tuesday evening, which can be watched below.
Cooper, in response to the video, released the following statement:
"It is unfortunate that Governor McCrory has decided to mislead North Carolinians about the facts of this law. His new law clearly strikes down protections that existed for employees of state agencies, universities, and local government across the state.
"Instead of misleading North Carolinians, he should do his job, focus on repealing this law, and reverse the damage being done to our economy."