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Anti-LGBT Texas Republicans Want To Retaliate Against California Over Travel Ban

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Law prohibits publicly funded trips by state employees.

From staff and wire reports

California has issued a ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel to four more states that it says have laws discriminating against LGBTQ people.

The travel ban was first put into effect January 1 when state measure AB 1887 became law. The law says California is “a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination” and should not support or finance “discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

The travel ban list also includes states that California believes don’t protect religious freedoms and states that it says use religious freedom as a basis of discrimination.

“Our country has made great strides in dismantling prejudicial laws that have deprived too many of our fellow Americans of their precious rights. Sadly, that is not the case in all parts of our nation, even in the 21st century,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement Thursday.

Alabama, South Dakota, and Texas all recently passed legislation that could prevent LGBT parents from adopting or fostering children and Kentucky passed a religious freedom bill that would allow students to exclude LGBTQ classmates from campus groups. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the Texas bill, House Bill 3859, last week.

Some Texas Republican state lawmakers responded to Becerra’s announcement by calling for the Legislature to ban state-funded travel to California.

“I hope will let us reciprocate during the special session,” Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, wrote on Twitter.

“I can think of a few amendments to items on the call that would cover the whole State just in case doesn’t add,” Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, responded.

Abbott offered a mocking response to Becerra’s decision, according to the Texas Tribune.

“California may be able to stop their state employees,” Abbott spokesman John Wittman said, “but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation, and relocating to Texas.”

Meanwhile, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a news release Friday morning touting a new report showing that in 2015, Texas ranked second in the country for new residents from other states. California had the most transplants to Texas, at 65,546.

“The data in this report came as no surprise to Texans, especially those who have transplanted from California,” Paxton said. “I talk to people almost every day who made the trek from California to Texas, and without fail, they tell me their move is due to either greater job opportunities, much lower-priced housing, an escape from a left-coast political climate, or just a better quality of culture and life.”

Texas Competes, a coalition of pro-LGBT businesses in Texas, said it has concerns about the impact of California’s travel ban on future meetings, conventions, and sporting events. The law applies to the University of California and California State University systems.

“We are hopeful that some post-season sporting events might be exempted,” Texas Competes managing director Jessica Shortall wrote. “However, we are concerned about scheduled and future ‘home-and-home’ and non-conference games across all sports, and the multi-million-dollar economic impacts those games create. We are also concerned about the viability of California coach recruiting trips to Texas.”

Why the ban?

Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee were the original states banned by AB 1887, but Becerra added Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota and Texas on Thursday, citing what he called new discriminatory legislation enacted against the LGBTQ community in those states.

“While the California DOJ works to protect the rights of all our people, discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back,” Becerra said. “That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.”

The law bans state-funded or state-sponsored travel by employees of state agencies and departments as well as members of boards, authorities, and commissions.

Support for the list

The ACLU of Northern California and Rick Zbur with Equality California applauded the state’s decision to widen the ban.

“These discriminatory laws in Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota, and other states are completely out of step with the values that make California the vibrant economic powerhouse that it is,” Zbur said. “[I]t is imperative that California continue to denounce those actions publicly and financially.”

There are exceptions to the ban, however. For example, if travel is required to maintain grant funding or licensure, or for auditing and revenue collection purposes.

And of course, anyone can travel to any of the states on the list in a personal capacity.

Carma Hassan of CNN contributed to this report. 

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John Wright

John Wright is the editor of OutSmart magazine. He has spent two decades in the mainstream and LGBTQ media. Most recently, he served as senior editor of Dallas Voice, and covered LGBTQ issues in the state Legislature for The Texas Observer. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wright earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Florida. He resides in the EaDo area of Houston, where he is currently remodeling a 1930s row house.
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