Portland’s mayor and city councilors are joining a nationwide protest against southern states that have repealed protections for gay and transgender people and plan to ban nonessential travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.

“We are joining the call of municipalities that are saying there will be no municipal dollars used to travel to the states that have repealed anti-discrimination laws,” Mayor Ethan Strimling said. “The people of Portland would not want that tax dollars spent in states that are repealing laws protecting the (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender) community.”

Portland’s stand is clearly symbolic more than punitive. A city spokeswoman said she was not aware of any impact on travel plans and that nonessential travel by city staff is not typically approved anyway.

Strimling said the resolution, which is co-sponored by the entire council, will be taken up at the council’s April 25 meeting.

North Carolina and Mississippi recently enacted laws removing civil rights protections for gay and transgender people, making it legal to refuse services based on religious objections.

The policies have provoked a backlash from both the private and public sector, with musicians canceling concerts, businesses pledging not to invest money in those states and political leaders condemning the laws. Portland’s written announcement about joining the protest said the city is joining five states and the District of Columbia along with nearly 20 cities across the country in recommending travel bans to North Carolina and Mississippi.

Mayors and governors from New York, Washington and Vermont have banned some state-sponsored travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.

The protests have spilled over into business and entertainment, too.

Chief executives of 80 companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google have urged North Carolina to repeal the law. And Bruce Springsteen joined other musicians in protesting the laws when he canceled a concert in Greensboro, N.C., last weekend.

Portland’s resolution about travel restrictions would be the first in Maine.

The announcement comes about a week after conservative activist Michael Heath said he would pursue a statewide referendum to make a similar law change in Maine, which legalized gay marriage in 2012. Heath’s proposal would remove language in the state’s Human Rights Act that extends protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, something he calls special rights for gay people.

Strimling said Portland’s resolution would only apply to nonessential travel to the states. Travel deemed essential would be allowed, he said.

City spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said essential employee travel includes trips that are necessary for the enforcement of an ordinance, to meet contractual obligations, or for the protection of public health, safety or welfare.

Grondin said she was not aware of any plans for city staff to travel to either state, whether for reasons deemed essessential or not. She also said that nonessential travel by city staff is unusual, regardless of destination. “Typically, non-essential travel is not approved,” Grondin said.

City officials could not immediately provide information about how much the city has spent on essential and nonessential travel to these states.

Rachel Healy, spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine, declined to comment on the proposed resolution, citing ongoing litigation involving it’s North Carolina affiliate.

“The ACLU opposes discrimination against people because of who they are, and is currently involved in a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s law,” Healy said.


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