In response to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s March 23 approval of House Bill 2 — which officially blocks local governments and municipalities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances for LGBT individuals — Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an executive order Thursday banning all state-funded travel to North Carolina.
North Carolina’s HB 2, which mandates that transsexuals use restrooms corresponding to their sex and not gender identity or expression, aims at maintaining “basic privacy and etiquette” for citizens, according to an official statement from the North Carolina governor’s office. But the act, which McCrory’s communications director Josh Ellis described as a “common sense law,” has met criticism from state executives including Malloy and nongovernmental organizations concerned with LGBT rights. The core argument leveled against HB 2 is that it discriminates against LGBT community members, compelling Malloy’s prohibition of state-sponsored travel to North Carolina.
“We need to do what we can to stand up and act against laws that encourage — as a matter of public policy — discrimination and endangerment of our citizenry,” Malloy said in a statement Thursday. “It’s unacceptable, and Connecticut is acting.”
Malloy added that HB 2 is not only intolerant of North Carolina’s LGBT residents, but also puts any LGBT visitors from Connecticut in danger of discrimination once within the state’s bounds.
Malloy’s executive order received praise from John Pica-Sneeden, the executive director of the Greater Connecticut Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, the state’s division of a national network of LGBT business owners and chambers. Pica-Sneeden said he appreciates the “decency and respect for the LGBT community” Malloy reflected in signing the executive order. New York, Massachusetts, Washington and Vermont have passed similar ordinances.
“For anybody that is a religious person or believes in some higher authority to use that as an excuse to discriminate is really against religion, because religion itself has nothing to do with being discriminating,” Pica-Sneeden said.
Pre-empting opposition claims about religious freedom, Pica-Sneeden described the use of religion for discriminatory purposes as “really weak,” adding that he thinks McCrory is likely trying to make a name for himself politically among religious conservatives.
American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut Executive Director Stephen Glassman ’75 highlighted the importance of distinguishing between freedom of religion and freedom from discriminatory religious bias. He denounced HB 2 as “clearly discriminatory,” calling it a “vindictive, mean-spirited response to an expansion of LGBT rights at the federal level.”
Glassman said Malloy’s executive order is indicative of his deep commitment to equality and justice. He added that Malloy’s ban on travel to North Carolina is consistent with other measures pushed forth by the Connecticut governor’s office. Last spring, Malloy banned state-funded travel to Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence passed legislation allowing businesses to deny service to LGBT individuals on the basis of upholding religious freedom.
But Malloy’s ordinance has not received universal support in the state. Critics, including Peter Wolfgang, the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut — a statewide nonprofit organization that supports socially conservative causes — argue that Malloy’s latest executive order oversteps his authority.
“Gov. Malloy is looking to lay off thousands of state workers, he is facing union unrest, a $900 million projected deficit and businesses leaving our state,” Wolfgang said in an official statement from FIC, the only group to date that has spoken out publicly against the executive order. “But he is focused instead on allowing men into women’s bathrooms. In North Carolina.”
In June, Malloy approved a bill that allows Connecticut transsexuals to change the sex on their birth certificates before having undergone gender reassignment surgery.