Washington, D.C. legislators and Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) have introduced legislation banning city-funded travel to states with laws discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.
Bowser signed an order March 31 prohibiting the official travel of city employees to North Carolina in response to the state’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, which went into effect April 1 and requires transgender people to use public restroom facilities corresponding with the gender stated on their birth certificates.
Additionally, the law, also known as House Bill 2, prevents local municipalities from implementing their own regulations prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in public spaces.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) signed the act after North Carolina Republican legislators — who comprise a majority of the state’s general assembly — unveiled the bill March 23.
In a press statement released March 23, McCrory explained his decision to enact the legislation in response to an ordinance passed by the city council of Charlotte, N.C., that would allow people to use restroom facilities based on the gender they identify with, rather than their biological gender.
“The basic expectation of privacy in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room, for each gender was violated by government overreach and intrusion by the mayor and city council of Charlotte,” McCrory wrote. “As a result, I have signed legislation passed by a bipartisan majority to stop this breach of basic privacy and etiquette which was to go into effect April 1.”
According to Bowser’s order, the ban was enacted to add the District’s voice to the ongoing national conversation about LGBTQ rights. The order has already caused the cancelation of a trip five District Department of Transportation employees were planning to take to attend a symposium in Raleigh, according to DCist.
“To ensure a constant voice in policy and practice in the District of Columbia in favor of equal treatment for members of the LGBTQ communities, no officer or employee of the District of Columbia is authorized to approve any official travel to North Carolina until such time that the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act is permanently enjoined, repealed, or amended to allow local jurisdictions to enact laws protecting the LGBTQ communities from discrimination and to enact laws allowing persons to use restrooms that correspond to their gender identity,” the order reads.
D.C.’s legislation comes after the governors of Connecticut, New York and Vermont also enacted travel bans to North Carolina on March 31, 28 and 30, respectively.
The D.C. Council also introduced the Government Travel and Human Rights Act of 2016 on Tuesday, which bans District-funded travel to any state with laws discriminating against LGBTQ people. The act will be implemented if it receives mayoral approval and undergoes a 30-day period of congressional review.
Chairman Anita Bonds (D-At Large), along with Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At Large), Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Jack Evans (D-Ward 6), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6) and LaRuby May (D-Ward 8) co-sponsored the bill.
The act was a response to Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signing legislation allowing businesses, institutions and individuals with religious objections to deny services to gay couples.
Grosso said at Tuesday’s D.C. Council meeting that the District does not condone discrimination and that the bill will combat such discrimination in states such as North Carolina and Mississippi.
“Let us be clear — transgender people are not the threat, but rather it is bigots who are emboldened by legislation like in North Carolina and Mississippi who are harassing and assaulting our transgender friends and neighbors,” Grosso said. “In the District of Columbia, we stand against such hate, and that is why I am pleased to present this bill today.”
In a statement released March 29, McCrory responded to the criticism of the bill and defended North Carolina, instead blaming politicians for dividing the country over the issue.
“Some have called our state an embarrassment. Frankly, the real embarrassment is politicians not publicly respecting each other’s positions on complex issues,” McCrory said.
Co-sponsor of House Bill 2 Rep. Dan Bishop (R – N.C.) wrote in a statement to WBTV that the law was not intended to single out a certain section of the population.
“As you have noticed, there are no enforcement provisions or penalties in HB2,” Bishop wrote. “Its purpose is to restore common sense bathroom and shower management policy in public buildings, not to pick out people to punish.”
GU Pride President Campbell James (SFS ’17) expressed support for the District’s actions and the effect they can have as a demonstration of leadership.
“I really appreciate the support that the D.C. government is showing LGBTQ citizens from across the country,” James said. “I think it’s a great leadership example for protecting citizens’ rights and protesting and condemning the behavior of some state legislatures in trying to disenfranchise American citizens.”
James stressed the importance of combating state efforts to enact anti-LGBTQ legislation.
“I think it’s difficult for a city government to really step in where I think the federal government should be saying something,” James said. “To me, this is a great demonstration of solidarity in protesting what I think are terribly illegal actions by a state government.”
Secretary of Ally Engagement for GU Pride Russell Wirth (COL ’19) said the D.C. government’s response to the legislation marked a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s appropriate. It’s an interesting way of protesting,” Wirth said. “I think we need to make sure that we are supporting the transgender movement.”
Wirth added that although the District’s legislation is a step forward, federal laws are still needed to clarify anti-discrimination legislation.
“I think what we need to do is have a federal law passed so that across the nation, we have clear protections,” Wirth said.
Vice President of Community for GU Pride Willem Miller (COL ’17) spoke of his personal experiences and emphasized the need to make progress in anti-discrimination policies.
“I don’t think people who aren’t trans can understand what going to the bathroom is like for a trans person. There were months when I just didn’t because I was too scared,” Miller wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The trans movement doesn’t have unreasonable goals. We want to be safe and respected as fellow humans.”
Hoya Staff Writer Lisa Burgoa contributed reporting.