by Matthew S. Bajko
California has banned most taxpayer-funded travel to four states that have adopted anti-LGBT laws.
In addition to the three Southern states that the state attorney general’s office had identified in November for inclusion on the list – Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee – Kansas was also named to the official list posted online January 1.
It is the result of Assembly Bill 1887, which was authored by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), going into effect January 1. The AG’s office did not explain its reasons for including the quartet of states on the travel ban list on the main page of the website, instead, it included links to the anti-LGBT laws each state has passed at the end of a separate page titled Frequently Asked Questions about the new law.
Low’s legislation was in response to North Carolina lawmakers adopting in early 2016 House Bill 2, which restricts cities in the state from enacting local non-discrimination laws and requires transgender people to use public restrooms based on the gender they were assigned at birth. Newly sworn in Democratic Governor Roy Cooper has vowed to repeal the law, though an effort to rescind it just prior to Christmas failed.
Mississippi allows for its residents and businesses to discriminate based on their religious beliefs, while Tennessee adopted a law last year allowing therapists and other mental health professionals to deny seeing LGBT patients and others for religious reasons. Kansas last year adopted a law allowing campus-based religious groups to discriminate against LGBT students.
Low told the Bay Area Reporter this week that he is “actually disheartened” to see four states made the list, as ideally there would be none falling under the ban. He added he hopes it serves as a warning to lawmakers in other states where anti-LGBT laws are pending.
“Our state has clearly said our taxpayer dollars will not fund bigotry or hatred,” Low said. “If other states try to pass similar laws, we will do everything we can in our power to stop any type of discrimination from happening to Californians. As you know, our zero tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California and this bill ensures discrimination will not be tolerated of any kind outside our borders.”
Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy group which co-sponsored Low’s legislation, did not respond to a request for comment for this story by deadline.
As the B.A.R. noted in a story last week, San Francisco officials are expected to also ban non-essential travel to the four states, and possibly others, when its local travel ban goes into effect February 14, Valentine’s Day. The city’s ordinance also bans departments and agencies from entering into new contracts with businesses headquartered in the banned states.
“San Francisco and California must send a clear message that we aren’t doing business in states that pass anti-LGBT hate laws,” gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who was the main sponsor of the city’s travel ban, said in a statement Tuesday to the B.A.R. “The issuance of this list – and the upcoming issuance of San Francisco’s list – of banned states makes our legislation tangible.”
Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties already have travel ban policies in place, as do the cities of Santa Cruz and Watsonville. And a number of states have banned travel to certain jurisdictions with anti-LGBT laws.
California’s travel ban applies to not only government workers but also to employees and students at the state’s public universities. But it does allow for exemptions to meet prior contractual obligations, or for the protection of public health, welfare, or safety.
With anti-LGBT legislation already pending in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia, it is likely more states could be added to the travel ban lists this year.
The online page regarding California’s travel ban can be found at https://oag.ca.gov/ab1887.