In response to recent LGBT-discriminatory legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, the Montgomery County Council unanimously called for a travel ban to the two states. Montgomery County employees will no longer be permitted to make non-essential visits to either state, and other major cities such as Washington D.C., New York, and San Francisco have enacted similar boycotts to demonstrate their support for equality for the LGBT community.
In late March, North Carolina declared that transgender men and women would be required to use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex instead of their gender identity. Similar actions were taken in Mississippi, where legislators decided that business owners could refuse services to same-sex couples on the basis of religion.
Across the nation, liberals and conservatives alike were horrified by what they saw happening in North Carolina and Mississippi. According to a recent Bethesda Magazine article, Montgomery County’s lead sponsor of the travel ban resolution, Nancy Navarro, was one of the many who felt the need to take action immediately. She enacted the boycott as a symbol of “solidarity for those who continue fighting for equality” and was easily able to win the support of the County Council.
Navarro told Bethesda Magazine that “Montgomery County’s strength comes from its diversity and progressive values. That’s why it’s important that our tax dollars are not used in states that discriminate against individuals that are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.”
The county has been working to eliminate any kind of discrimination from schools to the workplace and protect the rights of LGBT individuals. A handful of MCPS students identify as LGBT themselves, and many others are allies against the discriminatory laws.
“Gender is a social construct and mainly culture-based. The bathroom thing is kind of like segregation to me, like ‘separate but equal’ in a way. That’s so early 1990s,” said sophomore Julia Chien of Churchill High School, referencing the notorious 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case in which the Supreme Court upheld racial segregation in public areas.
“I think boycotting is good, generally, because it’s kind of passive,” she continued. “But if you want actual change, you need to voice it more.”
Some students, however, are more hesitant about the travel ban being the right approach to this problem. “I think the North Carolina and Mississippi laws are ridiculous, but people may have family there or go there for good reason. The state government is at fault, not every inhabitant,” said Blair sophomore Emma Schillerstrom, who has relatives herself in North Carolina that do not support the actions of its government. “Regardless, it’s important that MCPS maintains its status as a pro-LGBT community and motivates [others] to make change.”
In the end, Montgomery County’s stand against LGBT discrimination has further solidified its claim as a home of progressive values, promoting the belief that all citizens deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, regardless of their gender identity.
Article by MoCo Student staff writer Irene Park of Richard Montgomery High School