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San Francisco, Richmond Ban Texas Travel

by Matthew S. Bajko

Texas Governor Greg Abbott was unable to get a trans bathroom bill passed during a special session, but another anti-LGBT bill covering adoptions goes into effect next month
Texas Governor Greg Abbott was unable to get a trans bathroom bill passed during a special session, but another anti-LGBT bill covering adoptions goes into effect next month  

Despite the failure of Texas lawmakers to pass a transphobic law during their recently ended special session, the Lone Star State nonetheless will be added to the travel ban lists created by two Bay Area cities to punish states that enact anti-LGBT legislation.

San Francisco and the East Bay city of Richmond are both banning their employees from using taxpayer funds to travel to Texas for nonessential purposes. In San Francisco, city agencies and departments will also be banned from entering into contracts with businesses headquartered in the Gulf Coast state.

The inclusion of Texas on the two cities' banned lists is due to Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott signing into law in June House Bill 3859, which allows child welfare organizations - including adoption and foster care agencies - to cite their religious beliefs as the basis for not working with LGBTQ couples and other individuals.

Abbott was also pushing state lawmakers to pass a policy mandating transgender individuals use public restrooms based on their sex assigned at birth and had convened a special session this summer to force through the law. But opposition from business leaders and the LGBT community helped kill the legislation this month when the state's GOP House leader adjourned the session last week without bringing it up for a vote.

According to a June 30 memo from City Administrator Naomi Kelly to city department heads, the addition of Texas to the list of states covered by San Francisco's travel ban policy will be effective as of September 1, as that is the date that Texas' homophobic adoption law takes effect.

In her memo, Kelly also announced that she had added to the list Alabama, which in May enacted an adoption policy similar to the Texas law, and Kentucky, where a state law allowing student groups and organizations in K-12 schools and colleges to discriminate against classmates based on sexual orientation or gender identity went into effect on June 29. The city's prohibitions on travel to and contracts with companies based in those states went into effect immediately, per Kelly's memo.

The number of states on San Francisco's banned list currently stands at eight, as Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Tennessee have been on it since March.

The city's list now mirrors the one maintained by California, as Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced in late June his office had decided that four states, including Texas, were covered by the Golden State's travel ban policy. The state law does not cover contracts and only covers the use of taxpayer funds for nonessential travel to states that have passed anti-LGBT legislation since June 26, 2015.

Santa Cruz County officials also banned nonessential travel by its employees to Texas in late June. Its policy now covers three states, as North Carolina and Mississippi had already been placed on its "no fly" list.

City employees in Richmond are now banned from using taxpayer funds to travel for nonessential reasons to all eight of the states included on California's banned list. The city council and mayor adopted the travel restriction policy July 18 at the behest of LGBT residents and advocates.

They did include several exemptions to allow employees to travel to the covered states, such as to meet contractual obligations incurred prior to January 1 of this year, to attend trainings needed to maintain a professional license, or to participate in pro-equality events relevant to their jobs. Richmond city officials will update the list of states covered anytime the state attorney general revises the state's list.

More East Bay cities could soon enact travel ban policies similar to Richmond's. The recently formed Lambda Democratic Club of Contra Costa County "will be working with other cities to follow suit," said Cesar Zepeda, president of the political group as well as Richmond Rainbow Pride.

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