Cities and States Ramping Up Travel Bans in the Wake of North Carolina’s Anti-LGBT HB2

By Megan Clayton • March 30, 2016 • 3:30 pm

Since the passage of HB 2 in North Carolina last week, numerous states and cities begun banning publicly-funded travel to the state. The new law is one of the most restrictive and discriminatory in the country; it includes a ‘Gender Inspection’ clause barring transgender people from using public bathrooms that match the gender they live as every day, and it voids Charlotte’s and other municipalities’ local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances.


Mayors and governors across the country are standing up to this extreme example of discrimination and state overreach. The dominoes began to fall last Friday, when San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee released a statement condemning the new discriminatory law and stipulating that San Francisco taxpayers will not be responsible for subsidizing state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT Americans:

“We are standing united as San Franciscans to condemn North Carolina’s new discriminatory law that turns back the clock on protecting the rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals. Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of North Carolina that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety.

I believe strongly that we should be adding more protections to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities in the United States, not taking them away.”

On Monday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio both signed executive orders prohibiting city funds from being used for travel to the Tar Heel State. In a proclamation laying out the order, Mayor Murray reiterated Seattle’s commitment to protecting civil rights and equality under the law, for residents of Seattle and other municipalities:

“Whereas, North Carolina’s H.B. 2 is inconsistent with the work and values of my Administration to promote equity, to end discrimination, to eliminate institution racism and to advance social justice for the people of Seattle … the City of Seattle will stand with those who are fighting for equity in North Carolina and elsewhere across the country.”

Mayor De Blasio’s order applies to all city employees’ “non-essential” travel to North Carolina. He also signaled he would sign the same order barring travel to Georgia if it passed a similar law; thankfully, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed that legislation on Monday:

“I think it’s quite clear that voices of conscience all over the country are expressing outrage at these decisions which are reinstituting discrimination against the LGBT community. My hope is that both these states will relent, but we certainly are not going to have any non-essential travel to those states if these laws do continue in effect.”

Boston city councilors considered a similar measure on Wednesday, March 30, which Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he would sign. West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio took action on Thursday; she is the first mayor in Florida to do so:

“Part of what the bill says is that if you’re transgender and you have to go to the bathroom that the gender that is indicated on your birth certificate. So it seems a little weird that people might have to show their birth certificates to use the bathroom. As a mayor of a city, we are seeing way more pre-emptions going on at the state level that we really don’t like.”

Governors are stepping up too. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also issued an executive order barring non-essential travel to North Carolina, noting in a statement that New York has a special responsibility as a state that has been at the forefront of LGBT rights milestones:

“In New York, we believe that all people—regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation—deserve the same rights and protections under the eyes of the law. From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community, and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past. As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin joined Governor Cuomo on Tuesday, banning official state travel to North Carolina and reiterating their states’ commitment to equality for all people. Governor Shumlin said:

“The law passed in North Carolina is an absolute disgrace. Vermont has a proud tradition of protecting the rights of LGBT individuals. I’m making this decision in that tradition. I’m proud to join with New York in taking this action. I hope other states will join us in applying pressure on North Carolina to recognize common sense, common decency, and common humanity and repeal this law.”

Governor Inslee’s statement expressed concerns that Washington residents traveling to North Carolina could be subjected to discrimination:

“[H.B. 2] overrides nondiscrimination ordinances passed by local governments within the state, clarifies that sexual orientation and gender identity are not protected classes, and allows discrimination against individuals in the state, including but not limited to Washington citizens traveling to North Carolina for work-related purposes …

It is the law of Washington State and the policy of my administration to demand equality for all persons. Consequently, I hereby order that no executive cabinet-level agency or small-cabinet agency shall allow publicly funded non-essential travel to the state of North Carolina so long as the recently approved H.B. 2 exists in its current form.”

On Thursday, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy announced he would also ban state-funded travel to North Carolina, echoing Governor Inslee’s concerns that HB 2 could impact local residents who are traveling out of state:

“When we see discrimination and injustice, we have to act.  This law is not just wrong, it poses a public safety risk to Connecticut residents traveling through North Carolina.  That’s why I have signed an executive order banning state-funded travel to the state.  This law endangers the welfare not just of North Carolina’s citizens, but of all people visiting that state. Nearly two decades ago, Connecticut was among the first states to pass a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation, and three years ago I proudly signed a law adding gender identity and expression to those statutes.  We need to do what we can to stand up and act against laws that encourage – as a matter of public policy – discrimination and endangerment of our citizenry.  It’s unacceptable, and Connecticut is acting.”

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has also followed suit:

That law blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women and men. It violates the values and the laws of our great state. In my view, it is destructive to the progress we have made to provide equal rights and protections to our LGBT community,

While banning government-funded travel is a simple action that mayors, governors and other municipal administrators can take, the strategy has proven very effective in the past. Last year local leaders—including Governors Cuomo, Shumlin and Mallloy and Mayors De Blasio and Lee—implemented the same travel bans when Indiana passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which would have allowed businesses to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people. Many of the bans were eliminated after Indiana amended the law. Government leaders are hoping this round of travel bans will have the same effect.

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