Liberty Counsel, a prominent antigay right-wing organization, hopes to have its day in court yet again, this time in North Carolina.
The evangelical law firm, best known for defending Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, has expressed its support of House Bill 2, reports The News & Observer. HB 2 was signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday, March 22. The law repeals all existing nondiscrimination laws across the state, while barring transgender people from accessing public facilities like bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.
In opposition to the governor, North Carolina's Attorney General, Roy Cooper has declined to defend the constitutionality of the legislation, calling it a “national embarrassment.” In an open letter to North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore and President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, Mathew Staver, the founder of Liberty Counsel, offered his group’s services pro-bono in defense of HB 2.
“Liberty Counsel is ready to provide a robust defense of the North Carolina legislature’s interest in seeing the Act upheld, and in preserving the privacy and safety rights of its citizens from attack by those who would deconstruct gender,” Stavert wrote. “Liberty Counsel has the track record, litigation experience and the conviction necessary to prevail in that defense.”
The Florida-based group, which is affiliated with Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. In an interview with The Associated Press, SPLC Senior Fellow Mark Potok said that the group has been known to spread blatant misinformation about the LGBT community in its legal cases, claiming that homosexuality is linked with “higher rates of promiscuity and incest.”
“A group that regularly portrays gay people as perverse, diseased pedophiles putting Western civilization at risk are way, way over the line,” Potok told the AP.
Liberty Counsel also supports anti-gay conversion therapy for LGBT minors and is a vocal opponent of hate crime protections on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. In 2015, after the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay troop leaders, Right Wing Watch reports that Staver warned the organization that it would “a playground for pedophiles.”
The counsel entered the national spotlight in 2015 after defending Kim Davis, the controversial Rowan County clerk who refused to sign marriage certificates for same-sex couples. In a September press release, the Council argued that Davis, who was charged with contempt of court for ignoring a federal appeals decision that ordered her to begin issuing licenses, was being “jailed for her conscience.”
“Everyone is stunned at this development,” Staver said. “Kim Davis is being treated as a criminal because she cannot violate her conscience. While she may be behind bars for now, Kim Davis is a free woman. Her conscience remains unshackled.”
In a March 17 statement, the Liberty Counsel voiced its support for Georgia’s House Bill 757, which would have made it legal for businesses in the state to deny service based on faith beliefs. It was very similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—the bill Indiana passed (and repealed) last year.
According to the group, HB 757, also known as the Free Exercise Protection Act, would have “[protected] pastors and churches from being forced to perform or provide facilities for same-sex marriage.” It was vetoed on Monday by Gov. Nathan Deal.
North Carolina’s bill was passed last Wednesday after a 32-0 vote in the State Senate, following a Democrat walkout. HB 2, however, is just one piece of legislation that threatens LGBT rights. Mississippi may be close to passing House Bill 1523, which critics have called the “most harmful anti-LGBT bill yet.”
Like Georgia’s failed religious freedom bill, the sweeping legislation would make it legal to discriminate against LGBT customers. Among its many other provisions, HB 1523 also allows businesses to fire employees on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.