North Carolina's 'Anti-LGBT' Bill Likely to Remain Despite Election of Democratic Governor, Experts Say

PHOTO: Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper and North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory in a live televised gubernatorial debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Oct. 11, 2016.AP Photo
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Roy Cooper, shown on the left, participates in a live televised gubernatorial debate with North Carolina Republican Gov. Pat McCrory at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, Oct. 11, 2016.

North Carolina’s Democratic governor-elect, Roy Cooper, may be powerless to repeal a controversial law that restricted the right of transgender people in the state to use a public bathroom of their choosing even though he called for scrapping the law during his campaign, according to some experts who spoke with ABC News.

The state’s outgoing Republican Gov. Pat McCrory signed the measure, known as House Bill 2, into law. On Monday, McCrory conceded the gubernatorial race to Cooper, the state's attorney general.

Cooper has called House Bill 2 “one of the most discriminatory laws in the country.”

In exit poll results from Election Day, a vast majority of North Carolina voters -- 66 percent -- said they opposed the bathroom law, while 29 percent supported it.

But legal experts told ABC News repealing the law could be difficult for the incoming governor.

Cooper’s Hands May Be Tied

Republicans still hold a majority in the state's General Assembly after this November’s election, and they are unlikely to introduce legislation to repeal it, said Bill Marshall, a professor of law at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.

"I think the voters sent a pretty clear message in North Carolina that they were dissatisfied with HB2, but we have yet to see if the legislature will understand what the votes of this past election mean," Marshall told ABC News in an interview last month.

“They certainly haven’t shown any sign that they are willing to do this thus far,” University of North Carolina law professor Maxine Eichner said in an interview with ABC News.

Shannon Gilreath, a professor of law at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, agreed.

"Even though Cooper has been a vocal opponent of this law, its repeal still requires the Republican-dominated legislature to acquiesce," Gilreath told ABC News in an interview last month. The governor, he added, “does not have the power to override the legislative process."

Cooper’s Options

A repeal proposal seems unlikely unless "Cooper is able to put enough pressure on the legislature," according to Gilreath.

Cooper "could try to appeal to the public by talking about how much HB2 has cost the state," he said. "We've lost millions of dollars in potential revenue because of business we've lost over the bill."

Before McCrory took office, the city of Wilmington had a $170 million film industry, The Associated Press reported. But the elimination of state tax incentives for film projects and the entertainment industry's backlash against HB2 have cut that to about $60 million this year, Johnny Griffin, director of the Wilmington Regional Film Commission, told the AP.

“I expect there are ways that Governor-elect Cooper could use political appointments and other executive orders to send a message more welcoming to the LGBT community, but he can’t do that in a way that violates HB2,” Eichner said.

Where Does Trump Stand?

On Election Day, North Carolina voted for Donald Trump.

When Trump was campaigning for president, he initially voiced his opposition to the “bathroom” bill in an interview with NBC, pointing to the “economic punishment” the state has faced for implementing the bill. McCrory signed the bill in March.

"Leave it the way it is. There have been very few complaints the way it is. People go. They use the bathroom they feel is appropriate. There has been so little trouble,” Trump said on NBC's "Today" show in April.

But in an interview with The News & Observer in July, Trump said he spoke with McCrory and he was “going with the state.”

“The state, they know what’s going on, they see what’s happening, and generally speaking I’m with the state on things like this. I’ve spoken with your governor, I’ve spoken with a lot of different people, and I’m going with the state,” Trump said at the time.