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With anti-trans law adoption, Florida is 5th state to soon be added to California's "No Fly" list

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-transgender bill into law June 1, the start of LGBTQ Pride Month. Photo: Screengrab
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-transgender bill into law June 1, the start of LGBTQ Pride Month. Photo: Screengrab  

After Florida Governor Ron DeSantis kicked off Pride Month by signing an anti-transgender bill into law, the Sunshine State becomes the fifth state this year expected to be added to California's banned taxpayer-funded travel list for state employees and college athletic teams. It will bring to 17 the number of states on the "no fly" list.

During a June 1 signing ceremony, DeSantis, a Republican, signed into law legislation requiring transgender youth play on sports teams based on their sex assigned at birth. Florida is now the eighth state to enact such legislation that primarily is targeted at transgender female athletes in middle school up through college.

"The Fairness in Women's Sports Act will empower Florida women & girls to be able to compete on a level playing field," wrote DeSantis in a tweet. "This will help ensure that opportunities for things like college scholarships will be protected for female athletes for years to come."

Immediately afterward the Human Rights Campaign announced it would sue Florida over the law. The national LGBTQ rights organization lashed out at lawmakers across the country for enacting such bills without providing any evidence that they are needed.

"The Human Rights Campaign will always stand up to anti-equality forces on behalf of transgender kids, and that is exactly what we plan to do by legally challenging this ban on the participation of transgender girls and women in sports," stated HRC President Alphonso David. "Governor DeSantis and Florida lawmakers are legislating based on a false, discriminatory premise that puts the safety and well-being of transgender children on the line."

In April, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R) signed into law a similar bill that bans transgender girls and women from participating in sports at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary level consistent with their gender identity. The Mountain State should now also be added to the Golden State's "no fly" list.

The onslaught of attacks against transgender athletes, mostly directed at girls and women, led the NCAA to reiterate its support for trans athletes earlier this month and its commitment to only hold championship sports games in locations where the hosts can provide safe and healthy environments free of discrimination. Yet, as the Associated Press reported in May, the NCAA has chosen schools in Alabama, Arkansas, and Tennessee as championship host sites for upcoming regional softball tournaments even though all three states have passed bills banning the participation of transgender women and girls in sports consistent with their gender identity.

It prompted criticism from various groups, including HRC, who called on the NCAA to adhere to its stated policy. The other states that have adopted trans youth sports ban laws are Mississippi, Montana, and Idaho, while South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) signed two executive orders having a similar effect.

"Transgender kids are kids; transgender girls are girls. Like all children, they deserve the opportunity to play sports with their friends and be a part of a team," stated David. "Transgender youth must not be deprived of the opportunity to learn important skills of sportsmanship, healthy competition, and teamwork."

California lawmakers in 2015 banned state-funded travel to states that discriminate against LGBTQ people with the enactment of Assembly Bill 1887 authored by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). The Golden State's no-fly list covers government workers, academics, and college sports teams at public universities.

There is a waiver for trips deemed essential, such as sending emergency assistance in response to a natural disaster, otherwise any travel to the states on the banned list cannot be funded by public tax dollars. State officials and college sports teams have found ways to get around the travel ban by having alumni associations or other groups pay for the travel costs to attend athletic matches or conferences in the banned states.

When governors of other states enact anti-LGBTQ laws, the office of California Attorney General Rob Bonta reviews them to see if it triggers placing those states on the no-fly list. In addition to Florida and West Virginia, Bonta is expected to also add Arkansas, Montana, and North Dakota to the travel ban list.

Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) signed into law April 22 Senate Bill 215, which LGBTQ advocates contend is an expansive religious refusal bill that could grant a license to discriminate against Montanans and visitors, including LGBTQ people, people of faith, and women, across a wide range of goods and services in the state.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum (R) April 19 signed into law House Bill 1503, which permits student groups at colleges, universities, and high schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) March 25 signed into law Senate Bill 354, which bans transgender women and girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity.

At the moment the 12 states on California's list are Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas.

In response to the Bay Area Reporter's emailed question on when Bonta would add the quintet of states to the no fly list, his office didn't indicate a timeline and referred to the webpage where it maintains the updated list of banned states.

"While we can't speak to any potential legal strategy, the California Department of Justice will continue to implement AB1887 and push back against LGBTQ+ discrimination," stated his office.

The office of San Francisco's city administrator keeps a similar list banning taxpayer-funded travel for non-essential trips to states that have adopted anti-LGBTQ laws since 2015. It also outlaws city departments from contracting with businesses located in those states.

The city also now bans its employees from using taxpayer dollars to travel to states that restrict access to abortion services. Thus, 24 states are now on San Francisco's list, with Montana expected to become the 25th state to be added to it.

Due to having restrictive abortion policies Arkansas, Florida, North Dakota, and West Virginia have all been on San Francisco's banned travel list since January 1, 2020. They should now receive a double asterisk marking to note each state has enacted both anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ laws.

UPDATED 6/2/2021 with comment from AG Bonta's office.

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