Eyed for repeal, California travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws expands

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday July 14, 2023
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Missouri Governor Michael Parson, left, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen, and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon have all signed anti-LGBTQ laws that have landed their states on California's "no-fly" list. Photos: Courtesy governors' offices
Missouri Governor Michael Parson, left, Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen, and Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon have all signed anti-LGBTQ laws that have landed their states on California's "no-fly" list. Photos: Courtesy governors' offices

Even as the policy is being eyed for repeal this year, California's ban on state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws is expanding. Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming are being added to it, meaning California will soon restrict its employees from traveling to more than half the country on taxpayers' dime.

It comes as state lawmakers are moving to repeal the travel ban policy, first enacted in 2016, and replace it with a privately funded pro-LGBTQ marketing effort in the states it covers. Earlier this year lesbian Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) unveiled her Senate Bill 447 called the BRIDGE Act, which stands for Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality, to end the travel ban.

It has since passed out of the Senate and is now before the state Assembly. Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), who wrote the initial legislation establishing the travel ban, has given SB 447 his qualified support.

A broad coalition of LGBTQ groups and leaders have endorsed Atkins' bill. San Francisco officials this spring rescinded the city's travel ban policy, which also had covered states that restricted abortion and voting access, and prohibited city agencies from doing business with companies headquartered in the states covered by the ban.

The state last updated its travel ban list in September 2022 with the addition of Georgia after Peach State lawmakers enacted restrictions against transgender female student athletes. Earlier that summer Indiana, Utah, and Louisiana had also landed on the list due to passing anti-LGBTQ laws.

With the policy still in effect, California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) announced July 14 that his office was adding the three new states to the so-called no fly list that his office is responsible for overseeing. They bring the number of states covered by the travel ban to 26.

"As mandated by AB 1887, we are, thus, compelled to impose restrictions on state-funded travel to Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming in response to their discriminatory laws targeting the LGBTQ+ community," stated Bonta, referring to Low's Assembly Bill he had passed that established the list.

In response to the latest additions of states now covered by the travel ban, Atkins tweeted it is another reason why the policy needs to be replaced with a new strategy. The travel ban, wrote Atkins, "didn't stop 23 other states from passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws, and didn't stop these latest three either. It's time for a different approach."

The ban on travel to Wyoming, ironically nicknamed the "Equality State," went into immediate effect on Friday due to the enactment of Senate File No. 133. The law prohibits public schools, and private schools competing against public schools, from allowing transgender female students to participate in athletics based on their gender identity, noted Bonta's office.

The law, expected to be challenged in court, also requires the state's governor to convene an "activity eligibility commission" to create rules governing athletic eligibility for transgender students' athletic participation. Appointees do not need to have experience in why gender-affirming care is necessary, pointed out Bonta's office.

As of August 28 California will restrict travel to Missouri due to the enactment of two anti-LGBTQ bills signed into law this year by Republican Missouri Governor Michael Parson. SB 39 prohibits public school districts, including charter schools, and public and private colleges and universities, from allowing transgender girls to compete in an athletic competition consistent with their gender identity.

Those in non-compliance would lose their state funding. Parson also signed SB 49 into law, which restricts gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth. Both laws are likely to face court challenges.

Nebraska will officially be covered by the travel ban as of October 1 when Legislative Bill No. 574 goes into effect. Known as the "Let Them Grow Act," it was signed into law by Republican Governor Jim Pillen on May 22, coincidentally celebrated as Harvey Milk Day in California in honor of the state's first openly gay elected official.

The law, being challenged in court, requires the chief medical officer for the Cornhusker State to come up with "rigorous criteria" and regulations for when health care providers can provide gender-affirming care for someone who is 19 years old or younger, noted Bonta's office. It added that health care practitioners in Nebraska may also find themselves held liable, including for attorneys' fees, for providing such care, and the law denies state funding to any entity not in compliance.

Bonta criticized the three states' laws as not only discriminatory but also clear cases of government overreach. They are also part of "an alarming trend," noted Bonta, of attacks on LGBTQ rights in state legislatures across the country.

"By preventing transgender individuals from participating in sports aligned with their gender identity, or by denying them access to critical healthcare, these legislative actions directly contradict the values of inclusivity and diversity," stated Bonta. "These laws pose significant risks for deepening the stigmatization and alienation of LGBTQ+ youth who are already subject to pervasive discrimination, bullying, and hate crimes. In the face of such a gross misuse of public resources, California firmly denounces these laws."

For more information about the state's travel ban, and the full list of states covered by it, visit oag.ca.gov/ab1887.

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