Ending weeks of silence, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Thursday joined a newly formed Mayors Against Discrimination coalition that is barring official travel to states with anti-bias laws such as those enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi.
The coalition will also work to examine prohibitions on contracting and purchasing from companies in these states, develop model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies, and other measures that mayors and cities can take individually and collectively.
After North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory in late March signed into law a bill that overturns LGBT protections enacted by cities and other local jurisdictions in the Tar Heel State, several big city mayors quickly announced bans on city-funded travel, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee.
But Schaaf’s office did not respond to the Bay Area Reporter‘s request for comment last week on whether Oakland would do the same. Last year, Schaaf did institute a travel ban to Indiana after that state’s governor signed an anti-LGBT bill that was later amended after the backlash it received. After the changes, Schaaf ended the ban.
Thursday, Schaaf said in a statement that Oakland has a “moral and a legal obligation to root out discrimination of every kind. Bigotry and bias have no place in government or civil society.”
Schaaf added, in the statement released by Lee’s office, “We must stand up for justice and the civil rights or our fellow Americans. Allowing our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers to be treated differently under the law undermines the very essence of our democracy and harms all of us.”
As mayor of Oakland, one of the most diverse cities in the country, Schaaf said her administration has been at the forefront of “promoting equitable treatment under the law and fostering an atmosphere that promotes inclusion and the protection of our fundamental civil rights.”
“We will continue to uphold this tradition,” she added.
In addition to Lee and Schaaf, other mayors who have joined the coalition include Ed Murray, a gay man who leads Seattle; Bill de Blasio of New York City; Jim Kenney of Philadelphia; Charlie Hales of Portland; Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu; Javier Gonzales of Sante Fe, New Mexico; Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C.; and Bob Buckhorn of Tampa, Florida.
“We as mayors must stand up together and call out discrimination when we see it, and I believe working together we can create change to ensure the rights of all Americans,” Lee said.
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant this week signed what advocacy groups are calling the most extreme “religious liberty” bill in the country. The law, HB 1523, allows private businesses, individuals, and medical and social service agencies to discriminate against anyone in the state based on religious beliefs about marriage, premarital sex, and conformity with gender identity stereotypes.
Lee’s office said that it expects more mayors to join the coalition. The group will also work with private sector leaders and companies, like Marc Benioff from Salesforce, Wells Fargo, Starbucks, “and hundreds of others to apply direct political and economic pressure to repeal or stop the alarming spread of discriminatory laws in the United States,” according to the statement.