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The Republican Party of Minnesota along with many elected Republicans and Republican-aligned groups are attacking a travel ban instituted by Gov. Mark Dayton. Dayton ordered a ban on all nonessential state travel to North Carolina on Apr. 2 and Mississippi on Apr. 6 following the enactment by both states of anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Since then, Republicans in Minnesota have embarked on a campaign to push back against Dayton’s order which he describes as opposing discrimination. They’ve even introduced legislation aimed at Dayton’s travel ban.

On Apr. 5, the Republican Party of Minnesota released an email characterizing opposition to discrimination as being from the “extreme left”:

In one of the grandest and most bizarre political panderings of all time, Democrat Governor Mark Dayton is banning all “non-essential” state travel to North Carolina…The latest “______phobia” political tactic of the extreme left now demands that Dayton actually oppose the common sense of having separate boys and girls bathrooms, locker rooms and showers in schools and public buildings. What? And then issue a boycott because of it?

Elected Republicans followed the party’s lead. In emails to constituents, members of the Minnesota House attempted to rally support for discriminatory laws in North Carolina and Mississippi with nearly identical language.

Rep. Eric Lucero, who represents Dayton, wrote:

Recently North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a requirement to use bathrooms/locker rooms matching one’s biological sex in order to keep men out of women’s bathrooms/showers and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” in recognition of the need to ensure protection of religious liberty. In response, Gov. Dayton this week once again demonstrated his extremist views by enacting a ban on all non-essential state business travel to North Carolina and Mississippi. Gov. Dayton’s travel ban demonstrates his intolerance toward religious liberty and callous disregard for the physical safety and privacy concerns of children and women.
Gov. Dayton’s travel ban raises two important questions:
1.) Will Gov. Dayton also ban state employees from non-essential state business travel to other states and/or any of the many countries around the world with terrible human rights records?
2.) Because Gov. Dayton appears to admit non-essential travel occurs on the taxpayer’s dime, how many taxpayer dollars are squandered annually due to non-essential travel?

Rep. Abigail Whelan, who represents Anoka, told constituents 2 hours later on Apr. 8:

Recently North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law a requirement to use bathrooms/locker rooms matching one’s biological sex in order to keep men out of women’s bathrooms/showers. In addition to North Carolina’s law, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act” in recognition of the need to ensure protection of religious liberty. In response, Gov. Dayton this week enacted a ban on all non-essential state business travel to North Carolina and Mississippi.
This concerns me for two main reasons:
1.) If we are going to start banning state employee travel based on political differences, we should also ban travel to the many countries around the world with terrible human rights records, among other things.
2.) The fact that any non-essential travel occurs on the taxpayer’s dime.
To that end, I and other colleagues are working on a way to address the question of “non-essential” travel. I will keep you updated.

Several days later, Sen. Paul Gazelka of Nisswa sent an email to constituents:

In the most recent of strange decisions and proclamations from Governor Dayton’s office, you most likely have heard of his official ban on all “non-essential” travel by state employees to North Carolina and Mississippi.

This official ban is a result of their passage of legislation like North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act. Democrats in the far-left faction are certainly demanding Governor Dayton to conventional wisdom that there be separate bathrooms or locker rooms for boy and girls.

Furthermore, why are taxpayers paying for state employees to travel non-essentially to begin with? On that note, why does the government conduct any non-essential business? This is very bizarre behavior indeed.

Rep. Peggy Bennett, representing Albert Lea, told Christian radio station KJLY that she disagreed with the travel ban:

Why would we be doing nonessential travel on state money anywhere so, that was kind of my first funny thought but when I looked at the general subject, I think it’s very sad. And I think the governor and many people are very confused with the direction of this bill, it’s that we’re looking at safety and personal privacy for women and girls, especially, is not discrimination. This is safety and privacy for everybody and to make sure that we’re using bathrooms locker rooms other places where there’s states of undress that we are using that according to our biological sex at birth.

She then made the unsupported claim that in states where discrimination based on gender identity there has been an increase in bathroom crimes:

What’s happening is there a number of communities in the state who are potentially going to pass laws that say that all bathrooms in that city should be gender neutral. That’s a concern. I think we want to just set an overall theme for our state of personal privacy and safety and that’s what this would address. Now we are not stopping anybody in this bill from having a single stall or single unit bathroom or changing room, you know, we see those around. When you have a bathroom where a man can come in — and we’ve already had issues in a few states that have laws that all bathrooms and changing rooms must be gender neutral. Well, those states are starting to have problems where — out west somewhere in one of the states — a man walked into the locker room where a girls’ swim team was showering and changing and he just walked in there and watched for a while and walked out. Another time there was a man that came in there and undressed completely and so they can do nothing about that because of those laws.

Not only are Minnesota Republicans blasting Dayton for the travel ban, but they are affirming the laws allow people to deny services to LGBT people and ban transgender people from using the bathroom. Thirty-five Republican lawmakers sent a letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory supporting the law.

On religious right radio station AM 980 KKMS, Rep. Abigail Whelan and host Paul Ridgeway gushed over North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory:

North Carolina, they passed a bill that would require people to use the bathroom and locker facilities of their biological sex so boys go into boys rooms, girls go into girls rooms, but there’s been a lot of backlash as the people feel this is discrimination against the transgender community which we know it’s not based on various legal cases and that given all of the attention that’s been focused on North Carolina and our own governor, unfortunately, even issuing a travel ban on nonessential travel for state employees. We felt it was important for us as Republican and Christian legislators to take a stand not only in support of the governor of North Carolina and their legislature for the courageous stance that they took but also for Minnesotans to know that there’s another voice — that Gov. Dayton does not speak for all Minnesotans and that it’s okay to have different viewpoints and opinions.

Republicans have even introduced legislation attacking Gov. Dayton’s travel ban. HF 3902 bans state travel that doesn’t “protect the safety or other essential interests of the citizens of the state.”

Another bill, HF 3903, bans travel that isn’t “(1) necessary for enforcement of Minnesota law; (2) necessary to meet the state’s contractual or other legal obligations; or (3) necessary for the protection of public health, welfare, or safety.”

That’s nearly identical to Gov. Dayton’s definition. in his letter to state staff, Dayton wrote:

Factors that agencies should consider in determining whether travel is essential include:
 Is travel necessary for the enforcement of Minnesota law?
 Is travel necessary to meet the state’s contractual or other legal obligations?
 Is travel necessary for the protection of public health, welfare, and/or safety?

Here are the resources used for this report:

MN GOP email

Download (PDF, 636KB)

Rep. Lucero email

Download (PDF, 458KB)

Rep. Whelan email

Download (PDF, 513KB)

Sen. Gazelka email

Download (PDF, 172KB)

Peggy Bennet

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Andy Birkey
Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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