Baker says no need to ban state-funded NC travel

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BOSTON – While the Boston City Council took action last week to ban taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said official travel to the Tar Heel state is unlikely even without a prohibition.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican, sparked an outcry and opposition from gay and transgender advocacy groups last week when he signed a law invalidating a Charlotte municipal ordinance that gave transgender people legal access to public facilities such as restrooms that correspond to their gender identity rather than their sex at birth.

According to the Charlotte Observer newspaper, the law prevents “Charlotte and any other municipality from adding new protections for gays, lesbians or transgender individuals.”

Last week, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh signed the ordinance unanimously passed by the City Council. It says the North Carolina law sanctions transgender discrimination and the city “has a duty to promote social justice and combat social oppression whenever able.”

The ordinance includes exceptions for travel necessary to enforce city or state law, meet the terms of a contract or protect the health and safety of Bostonians.

When asked if he had considered a similar ban at the state level, Baker said taxpayer-funded out-of-state travel would likely be light leading up to the July 31 end of formal legislative sessions in the State House.

“We have pretty limited travel at this point in time anyway,” Baker said Tuesday after testifying on an economic development bill. “And unless somebody has a really good reason for going, we would expect people certainly between now and the end of the legislative session to be spending their time here.”

A bill that would establish access rights for transgender people in Massachusetts has been pending before the Judiciary Committee for most of the 2015-2016 session.

The governor has not weighed in on that legislation, leaving lawmakers who support the bill unsure whether they would need to muster the votes for a veto override.

Bonnie McGilpin, a spokeswoman for Walsh, said there had been no trips scheduled for North Carolina when the mayor signed the ordinance.

“I’m not aware of anybody who’s traveling to North Carolina anytime soon,” said Baker.

Written by Andy Metzger