California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that California would be adding 5 more states to the state travel ban due to their new laws that restrict LGBT and transgender rights.
Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia now join 12 other states, including Idaho, Texas, and Tennessee, to have banned travel under AB 1887. Authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and signed into law by then-Governor Jerry Brown in 2016, AB 1887 forbids all state-paid travel to states that have laws that discriminate ‘based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression’. While there are health and safety travel exceptions, they have otherwise withstood the test of the last several years, including Texas being turned down by the U.S. Supreme Court in trying to overturn the law in April and states such as Oklahoma banning travel to California in turn.
“Assembly Bill 1887 is about aligning our dollars with our values,” said Attorney General Bonta in a statement on Monday. “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. It’s been 52 years to the day since the Stonewall Riots began, but that same fight remains all too alive and well in this country. Rather than focusing on solving real issues, some politicians think it’s in their best interest to demonize trans youth and block life-saving care. 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.”
Specifically, California opposes new laws in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and West Virginia that prevent transgender girls who are biological males from participating in school sports, a North Dakota law that allows some student organizations to stop LGBT students from joining and still receiving funding, and an Arkansas law that prohibits doctors from giving gender-oriented healthcare to transgender minors.
“These are dangerous new laws that directly work to ban transgender youth from playing sports, block access to life-saving care, or otherwise limit the rights of members of the LGBTQ+ community,” added the Attorney General’s office. “The banned states are working to prevent transgender women and girls from participating in school sports, consistent with their gender identity. It’s all part of a movement to limit the rights of LGBTQ Americans as a movement.”
Reactions from state travel ban supporters, opponents
California’s action on Monday was celebrated by many LGBT organizations and advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Campaign, on Monday.
“This shows the power of LGBTQ people today,” explained Alexis Sheridan, a lawyer in San Francisco with many LGBT clients, to the Globe on Monday. “It’s happening everywhere. Georgia passed their voter restrictions, and the MLB moved their All-Star game from Atlanta to Colorado. And states pass laws that discriminate against the LGBT community, so an entire state costs them precious tax dollars from travel there.”
“It may not seem like a lot, but post-COVID, when these places are really looking for visitors to travel there and spend money, it can make a ding. That’s why Oklahoma reacted so strongly. They had a lot of Californians coming in for conferences and things a few years ago, and when the travel ban went up, that was a lot of vacant hotel rooms, empty rental cards, open restaurant tables, you name it. It won’t bankrupt them, but it stings. And California has inspired a bunch of states to enact non-essential state travel to many of these states too. One punch doesn’t do much damage, but a bunch does.”
However, many who came out against the travel ban on Monday note that the laws the states passed that spurred the bans aren’t as one-sided as they seem.
“Most of the new laws in the states that California just banned travel to did that to eliminate unfair athletic advantage,” explained Siggy Stevens, a coach in Florida who helped bring about transgender athlete bans locally in Florida, to the Globe. “You know, some of these athletes were men who became women, but still have that strength from becoming me. Some just claim it’s an advantage over [cis-gendered] athletes, but a lot of us view it more as almost cheating. There are lots of studies showing that this is the case, and this is not coming out of hate or anything like that to transgender people. We honestly haven’t really faced this level of it before, so now we have transgendered individuals who can play with an advantage blurring the lines on men’s and women’s sports.”
“We’re doing this not out of malice but because we see it as unfair. Notice that we aren’t doing this in non-athletic events or anything like that. One of the teams here actually has a transgender cheerleader, and since they are co-ed, it’s fine. But for athletics, we’re still figuring this out. If natural gendered people beat transgendered individuals, say, Laurel Hubbard, at the Olympics, then we may see this as more of a normal thing. But if they keep winning, by a lot, then we need some sort of solution that’s fair.”
“And California punishing us because we’re still working this out and not giving us the time to work out something fair to include everyone, well, that’s crazy.”
The 5 states receiving a ban today are expected to combat the Californian ban soon.