Gov. Mark Dayton on Saturday directed state employees not to travel to North Carolina for nonessential business, citing what he called “appalling” legislation requiring transgender people to use bathrooms based on their gender at birth.
“I am proud of Minnesota for the progress we have achieved to protect the rights and dignity of all people in our state,” Dayton said in a prepared statement. “When the rights of some Americans are threatened, it is the responsibility of all Americans to stand in opposition to those discriminatory acts. Therefore, I have instructed employees in all state agencies to refrain from traveling to North Carolina for conferences or other official state business, until the North Carolina governor and State Legislature repeal the discriminatory law they enacted [on March 23].”
Dayton pledged to veto any similar legislation in Minnesota should it reach his desk.
As a result of the governor’s directive, Metro Transit said Saturday that it will cancel plans to send some employees to the American Public Transit Association Conference and International Bus Roadeo, an annual convention to be held in Charlotte, N.C., this May.
The roadeo is a training opportunity for bus operators and maintenance teams, who compete against drivers from other cities.
Metro Transit is a state agency governed by the Metropolitan Council. “We fully support the governor’s decision and will immediately take steps to adhere to that,” said Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla.
Dayton previously considered a travel ban to Indiana following passage in that state of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in March 2015, which allowed businesses to discriminate against gay clientele based on their faith beliefs. He dropped that idea after Indiana clarified the law so that it did not allow discrimination.
The North Carolina Legislature recently called a special session to void a Charlotte ordinance that would have enabled transgender people to legally use restrooms aligned with their gender identity, and would have provided broad protections against discrimination in public accommodations in the state’s largest city.
The new law prevents the state’s cities and counties from passing their own anti-discrimination rules, and instead imposes a statewide standard that leaves out sexual orientation and gender identity.
North Carolina is the first state to require public school and university students to use only those bathrooms that match their birth certificates, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.
The battle over transgender rights also has flared at the Minnesota State Capitol, where a group of Republican legislators recently unveiled a proposal that would require people to use bathrooms and changing rooms that match their “biological sex.”
The measure would govern the use of public restrooms, locker rooms and dressing rooms.
Bill sponsor Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, said he had been made aware of incidents in which transgender Minnesotans have tried to use bathrooms that didn’t match their birth gender. “The bill protects the privacy and public safety of adults and young people, both in our society and in our schools,” he said.
Gruenhagen could not be reached for comment Saturday. Reached by phone, House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, declined to comment on the proposal or Dayton’s announcement.
The North Carolina action has drawn disapproval from many state leaders, as well as from corporations and the NCAA. American Airlines, which operates its second-largest hub in Charlotte, IBM and PayPal all condemned the law.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee was the first to halt nonessential government business with the state. Governors in Connecticut, New York, Vermont and Washington followed suit.
Star Tribune staff writer Ricardo Lopez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.