Western has shown solidarity with Gov. Jay Inslee in instituting travel bans on state-funded trips to North Carolina and Mississippi in response to legislation passed involving LGBT rights.
The state’s travel ban, issued on Tuesday, March 29, is in response to North Carolina’s House Bill 2 — the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act — which no longer allows transgender individuals to use the bathroom facility they feel matches their gender identity.
Travel bans to Mississippi come after the religious freedom law, House Bill 1523, was passed in the state. This law provides protection for businesses who refuse service to LGBT individuals based on their religious beliefs.
“When we do something like [institute a travel ban], it signals that these are the values we live by right here.”
Joanne DeMark, chair of the Western LGBT Advocacy Council
“Western welcomes the opportunity to follow the leadership of Gov. Inslee,” director of the Office of Communications and Marketing, Paul Cocke said. “Western supports the governor. Anything that revokes civil rights protections for the LGBT community is something that is contrary to Western’s values.”
Inslee laid out his reasoning behind the travel restrictions in a letter to all executive cabinets and other public institutions in Washington state.
In the letter, Inslee invited all other state-funded institutions to follow his lead.
In an email sent to staff and faculty on Saturday, March 30, Richard Van Den Hul, vice president of business and financial affairs, affirmed that Western stands with Inslee in his decision to ban state-funded travel to states with these laws.
“Until future notice, no travel to North Carolina by faculty, staff or students using state funds will be authorized,” Van Den Hul said in the email.
Western’s ban came only a day after the governor’s announcement.
Joanne DeMark, chair of the Western LGBT Advocacy Council, said she would be surprised if anyone responded faster than Bruce Shepard to the governor’s decree.
“When we do something like [institute a travel ban], it signals that these are the values we live by right here,” DeMark said. “I always appreciate that kind of signaling and courage.”
Senior Colin Nardine feels the university is making the right call.
“I think [Western’s position in following the Governor] is really great.” Nardine said. “Even when I first came to Western, I came here with the knowledge that this is the kind of institution we have here. I am definitely really proud of that.”
Nardine felt that Western is a safe institution to be LGBT, but it is still important for the university to make symbolic gestures like supporting the governor.
States that adopt these new laws could be in for some economic troubles, as over 90 CEOs and business leaders, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook, have signed an open letter to the North Carolina government demanding the law be repealed.
PayPal, a world-wide electronic payment system scrapped plans for a new global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina, ending the potential for 400 jobs to be generated in the state.
“The new law perpetuates discrimination and it violates the values and principles that are at the core of PayPal’s mission and culture. As a result, PayPal will not move forward with our planned expansion into Charlotte,” President and CEO of Paypal Dan Schulman said in a press release.
North Carolina isn’t the only state that has seen negative consequences due to their legislation. The tourism industry of Mississippi, “The Hospitality State,” has already seen a noticeable decline after just a few weeks, according to CNN.
“Our members statewide are reporting calls, emails and social media posts from people canceling or postponing trips to Mississippi due to national media reporting on this new law,” Mississippi’s Tourism Agency said in an interview with CNN.
Although the backlash has been very public and has already had an economic effect, more states are considering slashing rights for transgender bathroom users by adopting similar ordinances. These states include Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Tennessee and Wisconsin, according to FiveThirtyEight.