By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton ordered a ban Wednesday on some state business travel to Mississippi.

The prohibition comes after that state’s Republican governor signed a law that allows businesses and religious groups to not serve gay customers.

Dayton, a Democrat, also recently stopped non-essential trips to North Carolina over its new law that limits protections for gay and transgender people.

Both states passed laws he calls “discriminatory.”

“It’s a moral decision,” Dayton said. “And in the case of Mississippi, it’s just an egregious violation of people’s constitutional rights.”

Mississippi’s “Religious Freedom” law lets business owners deny service to same-sex couples if it violates religious beliefs.

And a North Carolina law bans transgender people from certain bathrooms.

“They fall far below a standard of legal and moral obligations that we have to respect the rights of our citizens,” Dayton said.

The Minnesota Republican Party described the travel bans as “bizarre.” And Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, is wondering why taxpayers are funding “non-essential” trips anyway.

“If it’s non-essential, by definition we don’t need to be doing it, and we don’t need to be spending money on it,” Garofalo said.

Minnesota’s Office of Management and Budget says essential state business includes law enforcement, contractual obligations, or public health and safety.

Non-essential travel includes the International Bus Roadeo in May in Charlotte, North Carolina — which Minnesota Met Council employees will no longer attend.

Garofalo poked fun at the travel ban in a press release, asking Dayton to “consider banning travel to Ontario, in retaliation for the pain Justin Bieber has inflicted on Minnesotans through his music.”

But Garofalo, one of the few Republicans to vote in favor of gay marriage, says his point is a serious one.

“Mississippi is wrong, but it’s also wrong to be trying to inflame people and get people to fight over an issue that really does not merit fighting in Minnesota,” he said.

Dayton says the ban will remain in effect until the laws are repealed.

“It’s a step backward for this country,” he said.

Democratic governors in New York, Vermont and Washington also imposed similar travel bans.

Pat Kessler