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North Carolina, Chicago Won't Take Your Trans 'Intolerance,' Rahm Says

By  Ariel Cheung and Ted Cox | March 31, 2016 4:35pm 

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel high-fived parade attendees before pausing for a selfie the 46th annual Chicago Pride Parade in Boystown on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel high-fived parade attendees before pausing for a selfie the 46th annual Chicago Pride Parade in Boystown on Sunday, June 28, 2015.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

CHICAGO — Chicago is joining a growing list of major cities boycotting North Carolina, reacting to a state law that restricts bathroom use by transgender people.

City employees will not travel to North Carolina unless the trip is essential under executive order of Mayor Rahm Emanuel who looked to take even stronger action moving forward. 

The North Carolina legislation — passed last week and already the subject of a federal lawsuit — requires people in that state to use public bathrooms and locker rooms matching the gender on their birth certificate.

The move was widely criticized as as antagonistic to transgender people. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said he signed the bill to protect "the basic expectation in the most personal of settings, a restroom or locker room."

The state also took measures to prohibit anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Opponents say the move is a violation of federal education laws and constitutional rights of equal protection.

Chicago's LGBT caucus and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) asked Emanuel to consider the North Carolina travel ban on Tuesday, pointing to Chicago as a "national leader in protecting civil rights" and the city's efforts to prevent gender identity discrimination.

Emanuel's executive order will direct city departments to ban non-essential travel to North Carolina as long as the state's law is in effect.

"North Carolina's values are ones of exclusion and intolerance versus tolerance and inclusion," Emanuel said Wednesday. "And it's wrong."

Emanuel promised further action against the state, as well.

Saying, "Diversity is our strength," Emanuel drew parallels with Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, adopted in the wake of a pizza parlor saying it didn't want to cater to gay people.

Emanuel said Chicago attempted to lure Indiana businesses across the border after the adoption of that legislation — and it succeeded in bringing the Whole Foods distribution center here this year.

The mayor said he now intends to attempt the same with North Carolina businesses.

The five charter members of the LGBT Caucus: Aldermen Deb Mell, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Tom Tunney, Raymond Lopez and James Cappleman. [Facebook/Deb Mell]

Five Chicago alderman formed the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender caucus in June, just ahead of the Pride Parade in Boystown. The group includes Alds. Tom Tunney (44th), James Cappleman (46th), Deb Mell (33rd) and City Council newcomers Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th) and Raymond Lopez (15th).

Under the North Carolina law, transgender people will be exposed to higher risks of violence, critics said. Experts say there's no evidence whatsoever of harassment from transgender people using bathrooms of their choosing.

Restricting bathroom use is even associated with higher rates of suicide among transgender teens, according to a March study. Advocacy groups like #IllGoWithYou attempt to fill the gap with support for transgender people in gendered spaces.

Unlike the North Carolina law, which was introduced, passed and signed into law in a single day, a similar bill in Georgia was scrutinized for weeks before its governor decided to veto it.

New York City, San Francisco and Seattle have enacted similar travel bans for North Carolina.