MONTPELLIER, VT - Vermont's governor has joined New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in instituting a ban on state sponsored travel to North Carolina.
Now the governor’s office in the Tar Heel state is firing back.
The developments represent the latest fallout, to North Carolina adopting a statewide law which some say discriminates against transgender individuals, because it requires they use the public restroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate.
To be clear, the North Carolina law would only apply to restrooms and locker rooms in public buildings and public schools.
The North Carolina General Assembly passed the bill, later signed by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, to block a Charlotte City Council bathroom ordinance that, among other things, would have allowed transgender people to use restrooms across the city that matched the gender with which they identified.
In response, by Executive Order 155, Governor Cuomo has barred unnecessary, publicly funded or state sponsored travel by state employees (while acting in their capacity as same) to North Carolina.
There are exemptions for law enforcement, such as a NY State Trooper going to North Carolina to help extradite someone accused of a crime in New York. Any prior contractual obligations are also exempt.
"I completely support what the governor did in enacting a travel ban for state employees and state agencies until they change their law,” said Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul while in Buffalo on Tuesday. “Why should we support travel to a state that has values very different to our own?" Hochul asked.
However, the question she raises, gave rise to another posed by a New York based evangelical group.
“Isn’t that hypocritical of Governor Cuomo and Lt. Governor Hochul?” asked Rev. Jason J. McGuire, Executive Director of New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms.
“They were wide open on Cuba,” said McGuire, referring to the trade mission lead by Cuomo last year to a nation which has a spotty record on human rights, far beyond issues of gender. “The governor was good on that trip for political purposes, but has a problem with non-essential travel to North Carolina?”
While Hochul claims the North Carolina law “discriminigates (sic) against individuals based on their sexual orientation," North Carolina's governor insists it does no such thing.
“Expanding this as some sort of bigotry, I think, is outrageous and a malicious accusation," McCrory told NBC News.
McCrory says the state legislature needed to act after the Charlotte City Council (he says beyond its legal authority) passed a bill "mandating " businesses-- including health clubs and gyms, let folks use whatever shower or locker room they choose, by asserting they identified with a particular gender.
“Would you want a man to walk into your daughter's shower, and legally be able to do that? I happen to disagree with that," said McCrory.
He also stressed this law, which would prevent this, only applies to public facilities.
Private businesses and universities can still adopt whatever nondiscrimination policy they choose, This includes allowing allow transgender individuals to use the facilities of their choice, because the new law neither requires nor prohibits them from doing so.
The law also does not require - or prohibit - the establishment of unisex bathrooms.
“The law that we passed takes away no rights that they (transgender individuals) currently have right now in North Carolina or in our nation," McCrory said.
Moreover, the Governor’s office says a lot about the law has been misconstrued by activist groups, and has a presentation of frequently asked questions on its web site titled: “Myths vs Facts: What New York Times, Huffington Post and other media outlets aren't saying about common-sense privacy law
Governor McCrory's office notes that while the law simply says people must use the public bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate, North Carolina allows anyone who has undergone a sex change -be it through hormonal therapy or surgery, to change their sex on their birth certificate, and thus use the facility they choose, in full compliance with the law.
It also says having a statewide law ensures policies don't differ from to city to city throughout the state.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the North Carolina Governor’s office responded to a request for comment to Cuomo’s move by WGRZ-TV.
"Syracuse is playing the Final Four in Houston where voters overwhelmingly rejected a bathroom ordinance that was also rejected by the state of North Carolina,” wrote Josh Ellis, Communications Director for Governor Pat McCrory, who also referenced Cuomo’s 2015 trade mission to Cuba. “Is Governor Cuomo going to ask the Syracuse team to boycott the game in Houston? It's total hypocrisy and demagoguery if the governor does not, considering he also visited Cuba, a communist country with a deplorable record of human rights violations."
Of course, Syracuse University isn't a public university under Cuomo's control.
One year ago, University at Buffalo, part of the public state university system, canceled athletic contests in Indiana when Cuomo- objecting to that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, imposed a state sponsored travel ban there.
The same would apply to North Carolina this year, save for the fact that UB has no sports teams playing in North Carolina this spring. Nor does Buffalo State College.
A UB spokesperson said that, as of Tuesday evening, the school is not currently aware of any travel plans by university faculty or staff which might be impacted by Cuomo’s executive order.