Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Cuomo, Schneiderman take on North Carolina, Texas

August 2, 2016

As published in the Times Union on July 29, 2016.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman have had dust ups recently with Republican administrations and lawmakers from North Carolina and Texas.

And now these Democratic politicians are firing back at those Republican-controlled states with legal briefs supporting the Obama administration in disputes over transgender rights.

Cuomo last spring instituted a non-essential travel ban against North Carolina by state workers, and Schneiderman did the same with his office.

That came after the Tar Heel state passed a law aimed at superseding a measure by the city of Charlotte to allow greater restroom choices among transgender people. The state law, not the city of Charlotte’s, has been criticized for rolling back rights for transgender people.

Now Cuomo and Schneiderman, in twinned news releases issued Thursday, say they are leading a coalition of 10 states and Washington, D.C., in filing friend of the court, briefs to support the Obama administration’s legal challenge to the North Carolina law. They argue that the law isn’t needed to protect safety or privacy and it could cause harm to transgender people.

Also filing were Washington, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon and Vermont.

The sides are flipped in the Texas case.

Texas and 10 other states in May went to court to challenge Obama administration guidelines which aim to ensure that “transgender students enjoy a supportive and nondiscriminatory school environment.”

Those guidelines say schools should allow transgender students to use restrooms and other facilities that match their stated gender.

Texas and its allies contend that poses a safety risk. Lawyers with Cuomo and Schneiderman are rebutting that argument in their friend of the court briefs.

The briefs are the latest twist in the legal battle between Democratic and Republican state governments. Earlier in the week, a retired state court judge in North Carolina said that Cuomo, through his travel ban, was violating the Hatch Act, a federal law prohibiting lawmakers from using their position to influence elections. North Carolina’s governor Pat McCrory, is up for re-election.

The retired judge, a McCrory ally named Robert Orr, filed complaints in New York with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and with the federal Office of Special Counsel contending that economic development ads the state has run in North Carolina (as well as other states) were essentially a shot at the Republican governor. One of the TV ads touted New York’s diversity while referencing newspaper headlines saying “North Carolina bans local anti-discrimination policies.”

Cuomo’s spokespeople have dismissed McCrory’s charge, calling it frivolous.

Schneiderman was subpoenaed by Texas GOP Congressman Lamar Smith, who heads the House’s Science, Space and Technology committee. Smith subpoenaed Schneiderman and Massachusetts Attorney Gerneral Maura Healy about their ExxonMobil Corp. probe.

That came after the two attorneys general subpoenaed ExxonMobil. They are exploring whether the petroleum giant was being straight with investors regarding what it knew about the dangers of climate change. If the company withheld pertinent information that impacts its operations, it could be seen as a cover-up for potential fraud.

Schneiderman is resisting the subpoena, saying it is overreach by a federal lawmaker trying to impinge on state affairs.