States Balk at Landing on California’s Restricted Travel List

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California will ban state-funded travel to an additional five states due to laws and policies that target transgender and gay residents.

Officials have reprimanded California Attorney General Rob Bonta after his office announced Monday that it would restrict state-funded travel to an additional five states where lawmakers approved legislation stripping preventions for LGBTQ+ residents, including bills that prevent transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams.

The move, affecting Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia, is mandated by a California anti-discrimination law that prohibits state entities from requiring employees to travel to places with laws that, among other things, void or repeal “existing state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”

“When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, California law requires our office to take action. These new additions to the state-funded travel restrictions list are about exactly that,” Bonta said in a statement. “Make no mistake: We’re in the midst of an unprecedented wave of bigotry and discrimination in this country—and the state of California is not going to support it.”

The laws vary from state to state, but all in some way involve protections for LGBTQ+ residents. West Virginia, for example, was added to the list after Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill preventing transgender females from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity at public middle and high schools and universities. 

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey blasted his state’s addition to the list, saying in a statement that the move was “an affront to the respect that the Constitution affords each state to govern as its constituents deem fit.”

“States should not penalize other states because of policy differences,” he said. “The economic coercion demonstrated by California is an affront to the dignity of other co-sovereign states and amounts to legislating across state borders in an effort to force the radical world view of large states onto those living elsewhere.”

In Arkansas, lawmakers approved three bills that Bonta said ran afoul of California’s policy, including a proposal to allow medical professionals to deny care to gay and transgender residents, a bill to prevent physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender minors, and a transgender sports policy similar to West Virginia’s.

In a tweet, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, a candidate for governor, dismissed the move as an attempt by Bonta to force his state’s “woke” agenda on other parts of the country.

“Our state is on the forefront in the fight for American values & just as I have done for over 6 years as AG, I will always protect our traditional American & Arkansas values as Governor,” she wrote on Twitter

California’s policy, which Bonta’s office said now affects 17 states, allows certain exceptions for state-funded travel, including trips that relate to litigation, revenue collection and participation in meetings or training that are “required to maintain grant funding.”

Kate Elizabeth Queram is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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