WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two days before President-elect Donald J. Trump is to be inaugurated, 175 mayors from 42 states united on Wednesday to send a message: They will secure LGBT protections locally even if they're not advancing federally.
The event launched a bipartisan coalition of mayors dedicated to providing support and resources to assist local governments that want to pass LGBT protections. The coalition created a website that outlines steps the group will take, including "championing municipal-level protections for LGBT people," "prohibiting non-essential travel to states with anti-LGBT laws," and "supporting local law enforcement on LGBT-inclusive trainings."
Co-chairs of the coalition include Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C., Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia, Mayor Ed Lee of San Francisco and out Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle.
The Center for American Progress announced at the meeting that it will release a report explaining a variety of options for nonlegislative actions that local governments can take to protect LGBT people. As of now only 32 states provide LGBT protections. Included among the list is to issue nondiscrimination protections for city and county employees and in public services; prevent discrimination and expand opportunities through grants and contracts; and establish LGBT liasons, commissions, and advisory boards.
The announcement comes days after at least 60 Democratic lawmakers said they won't attend Trump's inauguration in protest of the president-elect's attack on civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. It also comes after 156 LGBT elected officials authored an open letter on Friday to President-elect Trump, asking him to advance LGBT equality. "As representatives of the LGBT community, we will hold your administration accountable for actions that infringe upon our rights and opportunities, and will oppose presidential appointees who denigrate or harm our community," read the letter.
North Carolina's House Bill 2 was referenced multiple times during the meeting by mayors as an example of what can happen to a state's economy and public standing when discrimination is legalized. North Carolina lost a reported $329.9 million in revenue and more than 730 jobs. Mayors expressed concern that the same could happen in Texas if the state passes the anti-LGBT bill recently filed.
Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who was in high demand at the meeting, told The Advocate that she is hopeful the coalition will bring about LGBT protections at the national level. Roberts said change always comes first at the local level, then that spurs national efforts.
"There are many things this country still struggles with and, unfortunately, the campaign of the president-elect inflamed some of those divides," said Roberts. "I’m hopeful that mayors are going to stand up and say it's not right in the 21st century, it's not good for business, it's not good for morality, and it's not good for people's well-being."