Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed controversial legislation into law that allows child welfare providers — including faith-based adoption agencies — to refuse adoptions to hopeful parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
In response, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Thursday that his state will prohibit its employees from traveling to Texas because Texas has enacted laws that, he said, discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families.
Texas, home to the nation’s second-largest economy, joins California’s growing list of states — Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota were added at the same time — to which state-sponsored travel has been curbed because of similar legislation.
“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights,” Becerra said in a statement released by the California Department of Justice. “Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century. I am announcing today that I am adding four states to the list of states where California-funded or sponsored travel will be restricted on account of the discriminatory nature of laws enacted by those states.”
California officials had already banned state-funded travel to Tennessee, North Carolina, Mississippi and Kansas. Those states were targeted by then-Attorney General Kamala D. Harris.
Becerra has the power to enact the ban under AB 1887, a law that went into effect at the beginning of the year and prohibits state-funded travel to states with laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
The measure was created in response to North Carolina’s notorious “bathroom bill,” a measure that required transgender people to use bathrooms that aligned with the gender on their birth certificate, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The law led to an outpouring of anger nationally, and prompted businesses to leave North Carolina and numerous entertainment events to be canceled.
“There are consequences to discrimination,” Becerra told reporters at a news conference Thursday in San Francisco, according to the Times. “Restricting state-sponsored travel is a consequence.”
The decision to ban state-funded travel is far-reaching, according to the attorney general’s office, and applies to “state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, and commissions, including an agency, department, board, authority, or commission of the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, and the California State University.”
Becerra’s decision to increase the number of states affected by the ban from four to eight drew praise from Rick Zbur, the executive director of Equality California.
“These discriminatory laws in Texas, North Carolina, South Dakota, and other states are completely out of step with the values that make California the vibrant economic powerhouse that it is,” Zbur said in a statement. “As some state legislatures around the country choose to target and harm LGBTQ people and their families, it is imperative that California continue to denounce those actions publicly and financially.
“We applaud Attorney General Becerra for taking action to ensure that California is supporting the LGBTQ community and opposing discrimination both inside and beyond our borders.”
While the travel restrictions apply to state schools, the attorney general’s office left open the possibility that the rules would not apply to college athletic teams playing games in states on the list, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The paper reported that Becerra was questioned about the ban’s business effects for California, especially in regard to Texas, which has a powerful economic engine.
“Texas is a big state,” he said, but added that the consequences for LGBT people in Texas “are real” as well.
John Wittman, a spokesman for Abbott, took a swipe at California’s economy in at statement to the Texas Tribune.
“California may be able to stop their state employees,” he said, “but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation, and relocating to Texas.”
Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
University of Kansas officials told the Lawrence Journal-World in February that University of California officials had already scuttled plans to schedule basketball games between the two schools because of the ban on travel. Kansas was added to the ban after it enacted a “religious freedom” law last year that gives campus student groups the authority to bar members “who do not share the group’s religious beliefs or practices,” the paper reported.
The Chronicle noted that Becerra has not ruled out expanding the list to include more states.
“While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back,” his statement said. “That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.”