Metro will boycott North Carolina conference in protest of anti-LGBT 'bathroom law'

Following a national outcry over a North Carolina law that restricts protections for transgender people, the head of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has effectively barred agency employees from traveling to Charlotte, N.C., for a conference.

No Metro employees will receive agency funds to travel to an American Public Transportation Assn. conference in May, Chief Executive Phil Washington wrote in an email to staff, adding that Metro has "zero tolerance" for discrimination.

The North Carolina bill is the first state law to require transgender people to use the bathroom that aligns with the gender listed on their birth certificates. 

The law also blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination measures aimed at protecting sexual orientation and gender identity at hotels, stores and restaurants.

The so-called "Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act" was prompted by a measure passed by Charlotte officials in February that extended broad protections to transgender people, including the ability to use the restroom that aligns with their gender identity. 

About 20 Metro employees were planning to attend the conference, Metro spokeswoman Joni Goheen said.

In an online post, American Public Transportation Assn. officials said they are "legally bound to adhere" to conference arrangements made four years ago. 

But the conference will "shine the light on the importance of treating all people with respect," officials said.

The conference includes the popular "Bus Roadeo," a test of skill and agility for bus operators from across the United States. Washington said he has proposed hosting the competition later in the year in Los Angeles, as a part of another APTA gathering.

Supporters of the legislation have said the question of bathroom access is an important public safety issue. One lawmaker told the Lincoln, N.C., Times-News that national criticism should not "stop us from doing what we should do."

North Carolina has faced a storm of criticism over the legislation. On Friday, Bruce Springsteen canceled a Sunday concert in Greensboro, N.C., in protest of the law. And earlier this week, PayPal announced it was scrapping plans to bring 400 jobs to the state. 

Other states have grappled with similar questions this year, including in South Dakota, where Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have required transgender students in public schools to use the bathrooms that matched their sex at birth.  

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