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California will no longer pay for state workers to travel to anti-LGBT states

Avoiding official travel to discriminating states is now the law in The Golden State.

Assemblyperson Evan Low (D), sponsor of AB 1887. CREDIT: Facebook/Evan Low
Assemblyperson Evan Low (D), sponsor of AB 1887. CREDIT: Facebook/Evan Low

The state of California isn’t sending any of its employees to North Carolina, Tennessee, or Arkansas, because it’s now against the law to do so.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed into law AB 1887. It prohibits state agencies and the state legislature from ever requiring any of its employees to ever travel to a state that discriminates against LGBT people. Likewise, the state won’t pay for any travel to such a state. Though several other governors and mayors have imposed similar travel restrictions through executive order on a case-by-case basis, California is the first to pass a standing law with implications for future bills that states might pass.

AB 1887 doesn’t target any specific state, but lays out in detail whether a state will be impacted. Travel is forbidden to any state that has passed a law that explicitly discriminates against LGBT people, or that has passed a law voiding or repealing state or local protections for LGBT people. It requires the Attorney General to maintain a list of the states that would qualify.

Currently, the law would impact at least three states. The most obvious is North Carolina, because HB2 both voids local LGBT protections and mandates discrimination against transgender people when it comes to what facilities they can use. Also guaranteed to be on the list, however, would be Tennessee and Arkansas, two other states that have “preemption” laws prohibiting municipalities from extending nondiscrimination protections beyond what’s available at the state level, thus voiding any city or county ordinances protecting sexual orientation and gender identity.

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Another possible contender for the list is Mississippi, which this year passed a “religious freedom” bill that outlined a veritable menu of ways to legally discriminate against LGBT people. Technically, it didn’t change the status quo in terms of what forms of discrimination were legal, but it would have ensured that when businesses refused services to same-sex couples, for example, they were protected under the law for doing so. In July, a federal judge blocked the law from taking effect, but it’s still on the books and the case is still pending. Several other governors prohibited travel to Mississippi after the legislation passed.

A state that could also soon join the ranks is Texas. Its biennial legislature failed to advance any of its anti-LGBT bills in 2015, but lawmakers are already gearing up to consider a panoply of new bills next year. In fact, even though no bills have been formally introduced yet, Texas businesses are already speaking out against the prospect that they will be in hopes of avoiding the economic consequences that states like North Carolina and Mississippi have faced.

Assemblymember Evan Low (D), the bill’s original sponsor, celebrated Brown’s signature this week and California’s reputation as “a leader in protecting civil rights and preventing discrimination.” In a statement, he remarked that “California has said clearly, our taxpayer dollars will not help fund bigotry and hatred. If other states try and pass similar laws, we will work to stop them. Our zero-tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California, and AB 1887 ensures that discrimination will not be tolerated beyond our borders.”