CINCINNATI — Officials in almost 20 cities, including Cincinnati, have joined five states and the District of Columbia in banning government-sponsored travel to North Carolina, where the governor signed a bill three weeks ago that mandates transgender individuals use the public restroom that matches their gender at birth.
Four of those cities — Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; and Royal Oak, Mich. — have not taken action to add Mississippi to the prohibition. Mississippi's governor signed a religious-freedom bill April 5 that advocates say allows for discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexuals and transgender people.
"I am hopeful that the people of North Carolina and Mississippi will reconsider and repeal these two misguided and regressive laws," said Cincinnati Councilman Chris Seelbach, the city's first openly gay politician elected to City Council. "Until then, Cincinnati joins dozens of U.S. states and cities preventing our tax dollars from supporting state governments that have passed laws to discriminate against LGBT people."
Seelbach proposed the idea of a travel ban and defended it when Councilman Charlie Winburn questioned what he hoped to accomplish. The council voted 7-2 in favor of the ban Wednesday.
While council members don't declare their political parties when they run for the seats, Seebach is a Democrat and Winburn is a Republican.
Although these official travel bans are largely symbolic, they are growing in number. Twice the number of cities appear to be boycotting North Carolina than banned travel to Indiana last year when its governor signed legislation that would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
In Ohio, both Cincinnati and Dayton have enacted bans affecting North Carolina and Mississippi. Cuyahoga County, home to Cleveland, and Summit County, home to Akron, also put in place bans against both states.
Indiana's original law had been signed one week when lawmakers worked out a compromise to revise it, and because the law was effective July 1, 2015, the original law's provisions never were enacted.
North Carolina's law, which already is being challenged in court, was effective immediately. Mississippi's law will become effective July 1 of this year.
Tennessee lawmakers, who have been considering their own version of a transgender bathroom bill this week, delayed a committee hearing on their bill until Monday after businesses and entertainers lined up against the legislation. Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican who vetoed a bill Thursday declaring the Bible to be the official state book, also expressed reservations about the bathroom bill because the state's GOP attorney general said the federal government could withhold more than $1 billion in Title IX education money because of discrimination based on sex.
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As of Thursday, the following governments have banned official travel to Mississippi and North Carolina:
• States, 4. Connecticut, Minnesota, New York, Vermont, Washington
• Federal district, 1. District of Columbia
• Cities, 14. Cincinnati; Dayton, Ohio; Honolulu; New York City; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; Providence, R.I.; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Santa Fe, N.M.; Seattle; Tampa; West Palm Beach, Fla.; Wilton Manors, Fla.
• Counties, 1. Multnomah County, Ore., where Portland is located
Additionally, the following are prohibiting official travel to North Carolina only:
• Cities, 4. Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Royal Oak, Mich.
• Counties, 2. Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located; and Summit County, Ohio, where Akron is located
Source: USA TODAY research