Lawmakers fight for SUNY students affected by executive order

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A dozen New York State college athletes are preparing for a complicated travel plan to an upcoming tournament because of an executive order signed three years ago.

An NCAA swimming championship will be in Greensboro, North Carolina later this month, but an executive order from Governor Andrew Cuomo will make their trip difficult.

In 2016, North Carolina passed a so-called “bathroom bill.” It forced people to use a bathroom that corresponds with the gender on their birth certificate when in public buildings.

Governor Cuomo responded with an executive order that banned state-funded travel to North Carolina.
North Carolina later repealed much of the law in 2017, but the executive order remains.

North Carolina law still prevents individual municipalities from passing anti-discrimination laws based on gender identity, and that’s partly why Cuomo hasn’t budged.

Because of this, the 12 student athletes will have to stay more than 100 miles away in Roanoke, Virginia, and commute nearly two hours to the competition. Other athletes will be staying right in Greensboro.

“It’s an incredible hardship on these kids, who have worked a lifetime to realize their dreams of competing in national championship, and because of executive order 155, they may be hurt because of it,” said Senator Patrick Gallivan (R-Elma) in Albany Thursday.

Gallivan’s district includes SUNY Geneseo, where 10 of the 12 students attend college.

Gallivan compared Cuomo’s reaction to Amazon backing out of its deal for an HQ2 downstate to this.

“The governor pointed out that putting political interests first was inappropriate, and I would say just as it was inappropriate there, so too is it inappropriate and incredibly unfair to make a political statement on the backs and lives of these student athletes,” Gallivan said.

Cuomo’s executive press office responded to a request for comment from News 4, saying,

“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.‎”

Senator Rob Ortt’s district includes SUNY Brockport, where one of the student athletes is from.
The 12th swimmer is from SUNY Cortland.

“This is really an issue of putting the politics aside, doing the right thing,” Ortt (R-North Tonawanda) said. “Changing, or rescinding the executive order, to allow these students to go to North Carolina and compete and represent New York State.”

They can still compete, but the student athletes will have to commute 100 miles to the tournament and back for three days, and they won’t have their own space to rest in between competitions, which could put them at a disadvantage.

We reached out to SUNY Geneseo’s swim coach but did not hear back Thursday night.

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