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NC Gov. Cooper vetoes three LGBTQ bills, but overrides are likely

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper
Jeff Tiberii
All of Gov. Roy Cooper's vetoes so far this year have been overridden by the legislature's Republican supermajority.

Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed three Republican-sponsored bills on LGBTQ issues. He calls the measures 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."

One of the bills would prevent teachers in elementary school grades from discussing LGBTQ topics. And it would require schools to notify parents if their child wants to use a different name or gender pronoun.

That legislation is titled the "Parents' Bill of Rights," but the governor calls it a "Don't Say Gay" bill that would scare teachers into silence.

"The rights of parents are well established in state law, so instead of burdening schools with their political culture wars, legislators should help them with better teacher pay and more investments in students," Cooper said in a news release.

But Republicans say LGBTQ issues aren't appropriate for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, and they think schools need to be more transparent with parents about what's happening in the classroom.

"This bill encourages collaboration, promotes transparency, and keeps classrooms focused on educating, not indoctrinating," the bill's sponsors, Sens. Amy Galey and Michael Lee, said in a news release. "The Democrats and Gov. Cooper think the government can co-parent, but Republicans will always stand strong to defend parents and families.”

The other two bills target the transgender community. One would ban people under age 18 from accessing gender-affirming hormone treatments, puberty blockers and surgery. Another would prevent transgender girls and teens from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity.

Cooper says parents and doctors should have the power to make decisions about children's healthcare, but Republicans claim the treatments could harm young people who might change their minds later.

The WUNC Politics Podcast is a free-flowing discussion of what we're hearing in the back hallways of the General Assembly and on the campaign trail across North Carolina.

"Ordering doctors to stop following approved medical protocols sets a troubling precedent and is dangerous for vulnerable youth and their mental health," Cooper said. "The government should not make itself both the parent and the doctor."

And he says the state's current system for making eligibility decisions for transgender athletes is working. For high school sports, the N.C. High School Athletic Association has a policy for determining where transgender students should play, and only a few transgender students are currently playing. But supporters of the bill argue that it's unfair for people who were born male to compete against athletes who were born female.

"Gov. Cooper has no interest in supporting female athletes, only his far-left donors that want to erase women by refusing to acknowledge biology," the bill's sponsor, Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, said.

Republicans likely have enough votes to override the three vetoes. That could happen as soon as next week when the legislature returns from its July 4 break.

All Democrats in the legislature voted against the transgender healthcare and LGBTQ education bills, but two Democrats supported the transgender sports bill.

Colin Campbell covers politics for WUNC as the station's capitol bureau chief.