Baltimore mayor bans government travel to N.C., Mississippi over transgender laws

Baltimore mayor wades into showdown over "bathroom laws" with travel ban

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has banned government travel to North Carolina and Mississippi over the states' controversial transgender laws.

With her order Tuesday, Rawlings-Blake has chosen sides in the escalating showdown between the two Southern states and U.S. Department of Justice, which sued North Carolina to block the bathroom law. North Carolina's governor answered with a countersuit, asking a judge to rule that the law is not discriminatory.

"I am hopeful that our efforts, combined with those of so many other progressive governments and companies, will push North Carolina and Mississippi to make the changes necessary to respect all citizens," Rawlings-Blake wrote in a letter Tuesday to city officials.

Mayors of New York, Seattle and San Francisco have also banned their government workers from traveling to North Carolina on business.

The new law in North Carolina directs government agencies and publicly funded schools to designate bathrooms for people based on their genders at birth. Supporters of such laws have argued that they would protect women and girls from sexual predators.

Mississippi passed a law, which begins July 1, allowing workers to cite their own religious beliefs — including that marriage be between a man and woman or that gender is established at birth — as reason to deny service.

"Those actions stand in sharp contrast to our shared values," wrote Rawlings-Blake, who has championed equal rights for the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community.

Two weeks ago, Rawlings-Blake said she was considering a travel ban.

She said she will not authorize trips to the states while the laws exist.

"All city agencies should not bring any North Carolina or Mississippi travel requests," she wrote, "until the situation changes."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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