Thirty-five Republican state lawmakers from Minnesota signed a letter to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory Wednesday, expressing support for the bill McCrory signed that mandates transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth sex.

On April 2, Gov. Mark Dayton banned non-essential travel by state officials to North Carolina in response to the new law, which he said was discriminatory. State workers were to travel there only if they were fulfilling the state's legal or contractual obligations, enforcing Minnesota law, or acting in the interest of public health and safety.

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Dayton referenced a Minnesota bill introduced by Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, which would also mandate transgender people use the bathroom that corresponds with their birth sex, rather than the gender they identify as.

"Current proposals to enshrine such measures of discrimination in our state laws are appalling, and they are wrong," Dayton said in a statement at the time. "I repeat my pledge to veto any similar legislation, if it reaches my desk."

The GOP legislators' letter dated April 13 was in response to Dayton's travel ban, and it encouraged "all Minnesotans" to visit North Carolina.

"The recent protests from our state and others in response to North Carolina's private bathroom protection bill are unfortunate," the letter said. "These views do not represent our views, nor those of the vast majority of Minnesotans. We wholeheartedly agree with you on the importance of protecting safety and privacy for all citizens."

Signers of the letter included Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Lake Shore, and Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Nisswa. All three are also sponsors of the Minnesota bathroom bill.

Heintzeman said Thursday the travel ban to North Carolina "certainly has been interpreted by a number of folks as an overreaction" and that it would be better if the conversation was more open.

"I continue to think that we need to be able to talk about this in a constructive way," he said.

Gazelka, who sponsors the Senate version of the bill, said he signed the letter because he was surprised that "nonessential" state travel existed in the first place, and that Dayton would choose the bathroom issue "among all the many, many issues."

He noted Dayton was joined by New York governor Andrew Cuomo in banning nonessential travel to McCrory's state.

"I felt like they were bullying the governor of North Carolina," Gazelka said.

As to the statement in the letter that the "vast majority" of Minnesotans agreed with the GOP legislators, Gazelka said the basis for the assertion was a poll conducted a year ago during the controversy over the Minnesota State High School League rule change regarding transgender players.

Gazelka said the Senate version of Gruenhagen's bill would not get a Senate hearing, as the Senate is DFL controlled.

Visit https://www.scribd.com/doc/308645387/Gov-McCrory-Letter to view a full version of the letter.

 

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser.