Why California Bans State-Funded Travel to Nearly Half of States


In 2016, amid national outcry over a North Carolina law preventing transgender people from using restrooms that aligned with their gender identity, California countered with its own legislation.

California lawmakers banned state-funded travel to any state that enacted anti-L.G.B.T.Q. laws. The boycott was a way to “fight back against the discriminatory policies passed in states like North Carolina,” its author, Assemblyman Evan Low, said at the time.

The law, which applied to four states when enacted, seemed mostly symbolic. It wasn’t expected to deal a major financial blow to the banned states, and California doesn’t track how much money has been withheld as a result of the law.

Six years later, as California pushes dozens of other bills responding to anti-abortion and pro-gun legislation being passed elsewhere in the country, this 2016 ban has been thrust back in the spotlight — and seems to be facing some pushback.

At least partly to blame is a summer vacation that Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Montana, which is on the list of banned states. Personal travel isn’t off-limits and Newsom’s office says his state-funded security detail doesn’t violate the law. But the optics were attention-grabbing, coming right after he railed against Republican-led states for embracing conservative policies.

The trip also drew attention to just how much the ban has widened since its early days. The law was written so that states would be added to the list if they passed discriminatory legislation in the future.

And amid a wave of anti-transgender laws in statehouses nationwide, the number of banned states has grown to 22 from four. The latest list was announced last month by Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is required to update the list and who voted for the bill when he was a Democratic assemblyman.

The newest additions include Indiana and Utah. Louisiana and Arizona will officially be added soon when new laws take effect there. Newsom’s vacation spot, Montana, was placed on the list last year.

The expansive roster shows just how divided states have become in the six years since California enacted its law — and how our blue state is in opposition to nearly half of the country on L.G.B.T.Q. policies.

Critics say that the ban clearly isn’t having its desired impact, given that the list has exploded rather than shrunk. Citing the law’s many loopholes and some problems it has created for academics in California, the Los Angeles Times’s editorial board last week recommended the law be repealed and a Sacramento Bee columnist said it’s pointless.

“California’s laws are for California. As much as we like to impose our values on other states, it just doesn’t work that way,” the Democratic strategist Steve Maviglio told me. “It’s a feel-good measure that really has zero effect.”

But Low, the bill’s author and chairman of the California Legislative L.G.B.T.Q. Caucus, said the criticisms missed the mark. The law wasn’t intended to be punitive, or to pit states against each other. It was supposed to prevent state workers from having to travel to places where they may be discriminated against, he said.

These anti-L.G.B.T.Q. measures are “incredibly dangerous laws that are hurting the most vulnerable,” he told me, and their spread across the nation only reinforces that California employees shouldn’t be required to set foot in those places for work.

“The fundamental spirit of it is we will not send Californians in harm’s way,” Low said.

For $3 million: A 1923 Mediterranean-style house in Pasadena, a Victorian in Fair Oaks and a Craftsman bungalow in Redwood City.

Today’s tip comes from Edie Williams, who lives in Auburn, Maine:

“My very favorite place is Death Valley.

I love driving over the mountains and then descending into Death Valley, which is below sea level. The vast expanse of awesome beauty. Many shades of color. Few buildings and few people. So quiet.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

As water restrictions take their toll on Southern California, tell us: What’s going on with your lawn? Are you trying to keep your grass green? Or, did the drought prompt you to rip out your grass?

Let us know at [email protected]. Please include your name and where you live.

For more than 80 years, California’s Chinook salmon hadn’t been able to swim in the McCloud River, which had once been their spawning area. The construction of the Shasta Dam blocked their path to the cold mountain waters near Mount Shasta.

But this month, state and federal wildlife officials collected about 20,000 winter-run salmon eggs and drove them to a campground on the banks of the river.

Members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who have long sought to return salmon to their ancestral waters, held a ceremony as the eggs arrived in a cooler.

“This is history for California that we’ve done this,” Caleen Sisk, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader, told The Los Angeles Times. “It’s a real blessing.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter misquoted Barbara Ferrer, the Los Angeles County public health director. She said, “So no one should go into a space of saying, ‘I’m not at any risk,’” not “So no one should not go into a space of saying, ‘I’m not at any risk.’”

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