Gov. Jay Inslee announced Tuesday he is banning non-essential state travel to North Carolina, citing the state’s new law that prohibits schools from letting transgender students use restrooms that match their gender identity.
Inslee said the law, which also strikes down locally enacted protections for gay, lesbians and transgender people, isn’t in line with the values of Washington state.
“Our nation is rightfully moving toward increased acceptance and celebration of diversity,” Inslee said in a statement. “The discriminatory policy being promoted by North Carolina is not something our state condones or supports.”
The ban on state-funded travel applies to cabinet-level agencies such as the departments of Transportation and Corrections, which fall under Inslee’s authority.
Agencies run by independently elected officials, such as the State Auditor’s Office and the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, aren’t subject to the ban, but Inslee invited them to participate anyway.
Inslee’s memorandum follows similar proclamations by the mayors of Seattle, New York City and San Francisco, as well as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The North Carolina law overrides local laws that guarantee transgender people the right to use locker rooms and restrooms consistent with their gender identity.
It also states it can’t be considered discrimination to force transgender people to use facilities that coincide with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Washington state recently adopted a much different policy which has generated controversy of its own.
A rule approved last year by the Washington State Human Rights Commission affirms transgender individuals’ right to use restrooms and locker rooms that match the gender they identify with.
The new policy, which took effect Dec. 26, says transgender people in Washington can’t be forced to use a restroom or locker room that is inconsistent with their gender identity.
Attempts by conservative state lawmakers to repeal the rule in Washington failed to advance in the Legislature this year.
North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, put out video statement Tuesday defending the state’s legislation and calling other state officials’ criticisms “a smear campaign.”
“Some have called our state an embarrassment,” McCrory said in the video. “The real embarrassment is politicians not publicly respecting each other’s positions on complex issues.”
Inslee issued a ban on non-essential state travel to Indiana in 2015, after the state enacted a controversial religious freedom law. Critics said the law allowed business owners to discriminate against same-sex couples and other individuals on religious grounds.