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Travel ban to North Carolina affecting SUNY student swimmers

A ban by New York on state-sponsored travel to North Carolina due to a policy on bathroom use is causing some controversy and some changes for SUNY student athletes.

A total of 13 students, swimmers and divers from some SUNY schools want to compete in the NCAA Division III national championships later this month in Greensboro, N.C.

But, New York bars unnecessary state-sponsored travel to North Carolina after the state passed a bill in 2016 that required people in government buildings to use bathrooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate. The bill was later repealed, but legislators in North Carolina still prevented local governments from passing non-discrimination legislation until 2020.

Ten of the students are from SUNY Geneseo, two from the College at Brockport, and one from SUNY Cortland.

A spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo, Rich Azzopardi, released this statement:

“In New York, we do not support blatant discrimination, bigotry and bias. Standing up for equality is not a fad and as long as this anti-LGBTQ law remains in effect, New York tax dollars are not going to be spent there."

SUNY Geneseo released this statement:

"The members of SUNY Geneseo’s swimming and diving team are fierce competitors, and while the logistics of attending the meet will be challenging, the College supports the Executive Order that protects the rights of the transgender community. We have every expectation that with the perseverance and grit our team has demonstrated all season, our student-athletes will do well in the NCAA DIII national championship."

The College of Brockport has this statement:

“The College at Brockport believes all students deserve a campus culture of inclusive excellence in a welcoming environment, which is why we support the Governor’s executive order. While it will be logistically challenging, we have created a solution to allow our student-athletes to compete in their sport’s national championship. There is no place for discrimination in any form.”

The New York travel ban means that the students competing in North Carolina, beginning March 20, will have to stay in Virginia, about an hour away.

A SUNY Geneseo alumnus set up a GoFundMe page to raise money privately for the students to be able to stay closer to the swim meeting, but there’s no indication yet whether they will try and take advantage of that offer.

On Thursday, some Republican New York State legislators including Senators Patrick Gallivan and Robert Ortt of Western New York, Daphne Jordan of the Albany area, and Assemblywoman Marjorie Byrnes of Livingston County called for Governor Andrew Cuomo to rescind the travel ban so that the student-athletes can stay closer to the competition site.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.