Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state of New York have followed Seattle, San Francisco and New York City in placing a ban on all non-essential public-employee travel to North Carolina in response to the passage of a controversial law criticized for being anti-LGBTQIA+ discrimatory.
“They are probably responding to what they see their constituencies wanting, which lawmakers should do,” said Political Science Department Chair and Associate Professor Jeff Miller. “There’s always a tension in democracies between what the people want and affording each individual basic protections that we see in the constitution. If you’re a purely democratic state and everything that people want people get then that results in overriding individual rights which we think are pretty important so the Bill of Rights in a liberal democracy like the United States protects those rights.”
According to Miller, laws like this are often passed as a result of the tension he described. Although he believes the law may be overturned, he expects that it will be handled at least at the circuit level of the court system. From there, the courts may invalidate the law, send the law back or send the case back to a lower court.
“My instinct is to say that in the short term it’s not going to be changed. It may be overturned in the courts if it faces significant challenge, but that’s going to be more than a year or two off,” Miller said.
Miller said that he does not believe that North Carolina will respond to economic boycotting efforts because they are not robust enough to be effective. Several lawmakers in North Carolina have also released statements saying that they will not be blackmailed into changing the law.
Third-year photography and art education major and public relations officer/event coordinator for New Paltz Pride Connor Henderson believes that sentiments and attitudes towards the LGBT community are much different in southern states such as North Carolina than here in New York.
“How much support they have as well as the opposition they have kind of scares me,” Henderson said. “There was the bathroom law and at the same time, North Carolina repealed the law that protected same sex couples from discrimination; not only are they making new laws but they are taking away progressive laws made in the past.”
The law in question was passed a few weeks ago in a special session by the State’s Legislature and then immediately signed by Gov. Pat McCrory.
According to The Two-Way, the law blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect the LGBTQIA+ community. The law also bars transgender people from using single-sex restrooms and changing rooms that correspond to their gender identity.
“There have been claims made about things happening in bathrooms by trans people or people with different gender identities, but if you look at documented cases there’s nothing there to prove that there needs to be a law,” Henderson said.
Henderson referenced cases in other institutions such as the Penn State football scandal and sexual abuse allegations within religious institutions and pointed out that there was no response to create a new law after these events.
“There are no laws saying we’re not going to let kids go to church and we’re not going to let kids play sports because that would be crazy, obviously,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any real, true reason to make a law like this other than people don’t understand people who are different from them and want to discriminate against them.”
In response, Cuomo issued an executive order effective immediately that requires a review of all requests for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to North Carolina and bars any such travel unless it is necessary for enforcing state law, meeting contractual obligations or in the interest of public health, welfare and safety.
New Paltz Town Supervisor Neil Bettez said he agrees with Cuomo’s decision.
“I think it’s the right call,” Bettez said. “I think we should use every means possible to show how disgusting and apprehensible this law is.”
Cuomo also issued a similar order last year in response to a “religious freedom” measure enacted in Indiana and later reversed said order when the law was amended.
According to Miller, reasons to impose a ban like Cuomo’s such as to effect change or send a political signal. Governments also make orders like this in order to “keep their hands clean” or to expose the issue in the first place, but given this issue’s popularity, Miller does not believe this is the case.
“There are a number of different reasons you might boycott something or propose a ban like Cuomo does, you can boycott because you want to have some sort of effect on a law and that’s certainly what Cuomo’s official stance is,” Miller said. “You can also be signaling your political position to other people and the context of what your political ambitions might be for the future.”
According to Miller, bans and boycotts have different results. Boycotts have a certain effect, whereas bans, like Cuomo’s, send a signal. Miller said Cuomo is sending a signal to New York Democrats.
Bettez expects that North Carolina officials will amend the law in the near future.
“I can only think that this is a mistake on their part and an embarrassment to their state, their state is better than this,” Bettez said. “I would be embarrassed if my lawmakers passed this law.”
Henderson has faith that people are genuinely accepting and understanding of those that do not fit into the standard heteronormative binary that he believes our country is built upon.
“We live in a time where most people realize that people are different from them and you just need to accept them for who they are and what they want to do,” Henderson said. “Our country has already been through a civil rights movement and is still in the middle of another civil rights movement; hopefully people are learning from the past and don’t want to see this type of discrimination happen again.”