Ohio added to California travel ban list due to anti-LGBTQ law

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 24, 2021
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Attorney General Rob Bonta has added Ohio to California's 'no fly" list due to enacting an anti-LGBTQ law. Photo: Courtesy CA AG's Office
Attorney General Rob Bonta has added Ohio to California's 'no fly" list due to enacting an anti-LGBTQ law. Photo: Courtesy CA AG's Office

Ohio is now the 18th state covered by California's travel ban restriction due to enacting anti-LGBTQ legislation. The prohibition on taxpayer-funded travel to the Buckeye State takes effect Thursday, September 30.

It is due to provisions of new legislation, House Bill 110, becoming law that allow for medical providers in the Midwest state to deny care to LGBTQ+ Americans, including Californians traveling in Ohio. California Attorney General Rob Bonta, whose office determines which states are placed on the state-funded travel restrictions list, made the announcement Friday.

"Blocking access to life-saving care is wrong. Period," stated Bonta. "Whether it's denying a prescription for medication that prevents the spread of HIV, refusing to provide gender-affirming care, or undermining a woman's right to choose, HB 110 unnecessarily puts the health of Americans at risk."

Under California's Assembly Bill 1887, which Bonta had voted to adopt in 2015 when he served in the Assembly, state funds can't be used to travel to states that have adopted discriminatory laws against LGBTQ people since the Golden State bill took effect. Authored by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and signed into law by former governor Jerry Brown, the restriction on taxpayer-funded travel covers government workers, academics, and college sports teams at public universities.

"Ohio's decision to condone attacks on the health of its nearly 400,000 LGBTQ+ residents was widely opposed by the state's medical community. It's plain that this law only serves to discriminate," stated Low, currently chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. "We will never put Californians at risk of falling victim to the same toxic standard by supporting the use of taxpayer dollars for travel in places where anti-LGBTQ discrimination is the law of the land."

In late June during Pride Month Bonta had added Florida, Montana, West Virginia, Arkansas and North Dakota to the "no fly" list, with travel to all five now banned as of August because lawmakers in those states adopted anti-LGBTQ legislation during their 2021 legislative sessions. It was the first time that Bonta had expanded the travel ban list since becoming attorney general in late April.

As for Ohio's new law, Bonta's office said it is "particularly troublesome" due to it granting medical providers the right to deny important healthcare services to any patient over the entire course of the patient's treatment. The law applies "to a wide range of important services, including nursing and physician services, counseling and social work, psychological and psychiatric services, surgery, and the provision of pharmaceuticals," noted Bonta's office in a press release.

Under the law medical practitioners or healthcare institutions that do restrict services and treatment to patients are protected from civil, criminal, or administrative consequences, noted Bonta's office. And despite HB 110 suggesting medical practitioners try to transfer a patient where appropriate, it "offers no real protection because the language is discretionary and does not require action to help the patient," concluded Bonta's office.

Writing about the bill in June Gary Daniels, the American Civil Liberties Union Ohio's chief lobbyist, warned that "the practical implications may include Catholic hospitals refusing to admit LGBTQ Ohioans, health insurance companies refusing to pay for contraception, doctors blocking fertility treatments, and so much more. And, because this also includes non-religious reasons, discrimination against pro-choicers, Trump voters, meat eaters, and Michigan fans will all be fair game."

The other states on California's banned travel list are Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. 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, including Ohio having been added on January 1, 2020.

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