GREENSBORO, N.C. — A team of New York student athletes plan to compete in Greensboro, sparking new debate over New York’s ban on state-funded travel in North Carolina.
Due to a 2016 executive order from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, those student athletes would have to commute each day from Virginia. Now, U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina says he is willing to pay for the team to stay in a hotel in Greensboro.
The State University of New York swimmers aim to compete in the NCAA Division III Swimming Championship scheduled for March 20 to 23 at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
The ban, however, would mean they cannot book a hotel in North Carolina.
Cuomo enacted the ban after North Carolina passed House Bill 2, 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 LGBT community.
“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.”
Even though HB2 was repealed, Cuomo held the state-funded travel ban in place.
“It left discriminatory practices in place,” Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi told the New York Post. “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.”
New York Senate Republicans and others have expressed concerns that telling these student athletes to commute from Virginia each day would put them at a disadvantage in the national championship.
“Student-athletes shouldn’t be put at a disadvantage because New York’s governor wants to export his radical views,” said U.S. Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina. “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.”
On Thursday, Walker offered to pay for the team to stay in Greensboro as a show of support for the students.
It is unclear if the team plans to take the Representative up on his offer.