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Democrats hit Baker on N.C. travel stance

Governor Charlie Baker.Keith Bedford/Globe staff/file 2016/Globe Staff

Massachusetts Democrats are giving Republican Governor Charlie Baker the business for declining to join a growing list of elected officials barring taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina, after that state passed a law decried by gay and transgender rights advocates.

The North Carolina measure requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their biological sex, blocking transgender people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. The law also bars cities from passing ordinances that protect gay and transgender people from discrimination.

Governors in New York and Vermont, among other states, have nixed state-sponsored travel to North Carolina. Notably, Gina Raimondo, the Democratic governor of Rhode Island, has not put a ban in place.


The Boston City Council, meanwhile, has banned city-funded trips. Now City Councilor Josh Zakim, sponsor of the measure, is taking a shot at Baker in a statement issued by the state Democratic Party.

The statement seeks to tie Baker’s position on the travel ban to his non-committal posture on a proposed state law that would bar discrimination against transgender people at restaurants, shopping malls, and other public accommodations.

“While it is disappointing that Gov. Baker refuses to ban state travel to North Carolina in the face of LGBTQ discrimination there, it is not surprising — especially considering his refusal to support the public accommodations bill, a crucial issue for the LGBTQ community in Massachusetts,” said Zakim in a statement.

Declining to take a stance on the public accommodations bill is not the same as passing the sort of law North Carolina’s GOP governor recently signed. But one thing to watch, going forward, is how successful local transgender rights advocates are in tying Baker to national Republicans on the issue. If they are successful, it could be harder for Baker to wield the veto pen if the legislation lands on his desk.


David Scharfenberg can be reached at david.scharfenberg@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @dscharfGlobe