San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee has banned city workers from non-essential government-funded travel to North Carolina after that state’s governor signed into law a measure striking down and banning ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination.
“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,” Lee, a Democrat, said in a Friday press release. “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,” the mayor added. “San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in any city or state.”
San Francisco has the highest per-capita LGBT population of any US metropolitan area.
Lee praised Charlotte, North Carolina’s largest city, and its mayor Jennifer Roberts, for supporting robust anti-discrimination protection for LGBT residents and visitors. The Charlotte City Council approved such a law in February by a vote of 7-4.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, had threatened to take “immediate” state action if Charlotte passed the anti-discrimination ordinance, citing “major public safety issues” and “danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.” McCrory made good on this promise after lawmakers in the Republican-dominated state legislature introduced a bill and rushed it through two houses before sending it to his desk within 24 hours.
“I signed bipartisan legislation to stop the breach of basic privacy and etiquette, ensure privacy in bathrooms and locker rooms,” McCrory tweeted.
The most controversial part of the measure, which was set to take effect on April 1, would have allowed transgender people to use the restroom for the gender with which they identify, not necessarily the one corresponding to their birth or anatomy. Opponents voiced fears for the safety of women and girls forced to share restrooms with people who were born male, claiming sexual predators would have legitimized access to their victims.
However, there is no statistical evidence supporting assertions that transgender people are harming or harassing others in restrooms. Fully 70 percent of trans people, on the other hand, have reported being denied entry, harassed or assaulted when trying to use a restroom, according to a 2013 study from the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Several states, including Washington and Virginia, are considering bills that would ban transgender people from using the restrooms that match their gender identity. Similar measures were recently flushed in Arizona, Florida, Texas and Kentucky. South Dakota lawmakers recently approved a bill that would have required transgender students in public schools to use only the restroom which matches their gender at birth but Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the measure in the face of boycott and other threats.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, lamented the anti-LGBT law’s passage in a YouTube video in which he said that “North Carolina is better than this.”
“Discrimination is wrong, period,” Cooper said. “That North Carolina is making discrimination part of the law is shameful. It will not only cause real harm to families, but to our economy as well. We have seen how this played out when Indiana tried it—businesses left the state, or thought twice about bringing in new jobs, and millions of dollars in revenue was lost.”
San Francisco, along with some of the world’s largest technology companies, launched a boycott of Indiana over its so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The state, which ultimately amended the law to remove its most discriminatory parts, is believed to have lost around $60 million in revenue due to boycotts. The threat of boycotts and ostracization moved former Arizona governor Jan Brewer to veto a 2014 bill that would have legalized anti-LGBT discrimination there.
Currently, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is under pressure to veto a so-called Religious Liberty Bill meant to protect faith-based organizations from being forced to violate their religious beliefs by participating in or accommodating same-sex weddings and other activities they find objectionable. Media companies including Disney, Marvel and AMC—the cable television network that produces the popular series The Walking Dead in Georgia—have threatened to suspend production there if Deal signs the bill.
Charlotte is now facing the same sort of backlash from corporations, sports leagues and celebrities over its anti-LGBT law. American Airlines, Apple, Facebook and the National Basketball Association, which awarded Charlotte the 2017 NBA All-Star Game, are among the organizations which have condemned the law.
“The NBA is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment for all who attend our games and events,” the league said in a statement. “We are deeply concerned that this discriminatory law runs counter to our guiding principles of equality and mutual respect and do not yet know what impact it will have on our ability to successfully host the 2017 All-Star Game in Charlotte.”
North Carolina could also lose more than $4.5 billion in Title IX federal education funding, as the provision of the Education Amendments law states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”
Meanwhile in San Francisco, legislation that would make all single-occupancy restrooms gender neutral is currently moving forward and garnering widespread public support.