- Associated Press - Thursday, June 2, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Representatives of North Carolina’s attorney general said Thursday that he remains opposed to a law requiring transgender students to use restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates even though his office sought an extension for the state to respond to a federal lawsuit.

The deadline to respond to the lawsuit filed by the U.S. Justice Department about the law known as HB2 against the state was Thursday, the legal counsel for Gov. Pat McCrory told The Associated Press.

The governor intended to meet the deadline and was unaware that Attorney General Roy Cooper planned to file a notice of appearance on behalf of the state and the request for a 44-day extension, general counsel Bob Stephens said.

Stephens compared the situation to having an attorney who wants the client to lose.

Because of Cooper’s opposition to HB2, “I became concerned that even though he said he was going to represent the state of North Carolina, he really was not,” Stephens said.

A spokeswoman for Cooper’s office, Samantha Cole, didn’t respond to questions about why the attorney general filed on behalf of the state. Instead, she stated in an email: “By law, the Attorney General’s Office represents the state when it’s sued.”

But Cooper isn’t representing the state in the lawsuit filed by DOJ and has said he won’t defend the state against any lawsuits involving HB2.

In addition to the state, the DOJ lawsuit names McCrory, the state Department of Public Safety and the University of North Carolina system and its board of governors.

The request for an extension was filed Friday, the same day that the UNC board said it would ask the attorney general’s office to foot the bill for its legal fees. The UNC system also filed notice Friday that it doesn’t intend to enforce HB2.

The North Carolina law enacted in March requires transgender people to use restrooms corresponding with the sex on their birth certificate in public schools, universities and many other public buildings. It also excludes gender identity and sexual orientation from statewide anti-discrimination protections.

The two candidates’ statements became more heated as the day went on with McCrory’s campaign calling on Cooper to resign as attorney general. Cooper, a Democrat, is opposing McCrory, a Republican seeking his second term as governor.

The filing for an extension came to light in an email from McCrory’s office stating that Cooper had made a “quiet reversal” of his opposition to HB2 by filing on behalf of the state. A Cooper campaign spokesman, Ford Porter, called the release “just more misinformation from Governor McCrory on the truth about HB2.”

McCrory’s campaign then called on Cooper to resign as attorney general for “gross incompetence” and for siding with President Barack Obama’s administration instead of the state.

McCrory’s administration has taken over the case and will represent the state.

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Martha Waggoner can be reached at http://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/martha-waggoner

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This story has been corrected to reflect the time sought for extension is 44 days instead of 40 days.

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