ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2016 ban on official travel to North Carolina are being observed by a group of State University of New York swimmers who qualified for the NCAA Swimming Division III Championship, being held March 20 – 23 in Greensboro, N.C.
Cuomo enacted the ban after North Carolina passed HB2, the controversial law that barred transgender people from using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity and kept municipalities from enacting their own protections for the LGBTQ community.
In a 2016 statement outlining his reasoning, the governor stated:
“In New York, we believe that all people — regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation — deserve the same rights and protections under the law,” Cuomo said in a release when the travel ban was enacted. “From Stonewall to marriage equality, our state has been a beacon of hope and equality for the LGBT community, and we will not stand idly by as misguided legislation replicates the discrimination of the past. As long as there is a law in North Carolina that creates the grounds for discrimination against LGBT people, I am barring non-essential state travel to that state.”
The ban is still in place, in spite of HB2 being repealed and partially replaced by HB142, which many refer to as HB2.0.
Rich Azzopardi, spokesperson for Gov. Cuomo stated to The New York Times, “It left discriminatory practices in place, in New York, we do not support blatant discrimination, bigotry and bias. Standing up for equality is not a fad and as long as this anti-LGBTQ law remains in effect, New York tax dollars are not going to be spent there.”
A compromise of sorts allowed the athletes to compete, but they are staying in Virginia Hotels and are commuting to Greensboro, prompting some New York and North Carolina Republicans to use the ban as ammunition against Cuomo.
New York State Republican Sen. and coach Patrick Gallivan asked the governor to reconsider, expressing his concern that the SUNY swimmers would be at a disadvantage due to longer commute times.
U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina used the opportunity to fire off standard issue Republican digs at the governor stating, “Maybe Governor Cuomo has been so busy trying to raise taxes, scare off businesses and limit protections for unborn babies that he did not realize the H.B. 2 debate has passed. North Carolina welcomes all people and student-athletes shouldn’t be used as political pawns. We would be proud to have the SUNY students stay in our great state.”
Walker even went as far as to offer to pay for the student’s hotel rooms. A GoFundMe campaign was set up which raised over $7,000 of a $4,000 dollar goal. However, the state’s ban will still hold since it is a state sponsored event, and the athletes will commute from Virginia.