- Associated Press - Saturday, April 9, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - Mayors from around the nation are forming a group called “Mayors Against Discrimination” in the wake of recent North Carolina and Mississippi laws they call discriminatory. Leaders from Honolulu, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Tampa, Florida, and other cities are joining the effort.

The coalition plans to explore prohibitions on contracting and purchasing from companies in the two states in response to new laws, which critics say discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. They’ll also develop model resolutions that can be adopted by city councils and other legislative bodies, according to a news release.

“Some are trying to turn back the clock to a deeply flawed time in our history,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in the release. “We’ll keep doing everything we can to stand with the LGBT community, speaking out against discrimination and moving forward policies and laws like we have in New York City that allow LGBT individuals to live with the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Mississippi recently passed a law allowing religious groups and some private businesses to refuse service to gay couples. The North Carolina law prevents specific anti-discrimination rules for gay and transgender people for public accommodations and restroom use.

Supporters of the Mississippi law say it’s about protecting freedom of those who, for example, don’t want to perform same-sex weddings for religious reasons. Religious leaders and others have defended the North Carolina law, saying it protects women and children from men who use the law as a pretense to enter the wrong restroom.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced late Thursday that the city joined a growing list of municipalities banning nonessential taxpayer-funded travel to the two states.

“Hopefully, common sense and our core American values of equality and tolerance will prevail in these states, allowing us to lift this moratorium,” Caldwell said.

Honolulu officials are likely to cancel an upcoming trip to the International Bus Roadeo, a transit conference held in North Carolina that city bus employees were planning attend in May, along with several other cities, said Jesse Broder Van Dyke, a spokesman for Caldwell. While Honolulu employees haven’t taken recent trips to Mississippi, they have taken 15 trips to North Carolina since July 2013, he said.

Hawaii state Rep. Bob McDermott called Caldwell’s announcement an empty political statement, saying the city and state don’t do a lot of business with Mississippi or North Carolina.

“You either think the way we do or we’re going to punish you economically,” McDermott said. “This is America. You’re allowed to have freedom of thought.”

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