San Francisco Chronicle
California is adding five states — Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia — to the list of 12 others where it won’t send its employees on official business because of anti-LGBTQ discrimination, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday.
“We’re in the midst of an unprecedented wave of discrimination and bigotry in this country,” Bonta said at a news conference at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in San Francisco on the 52nd anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York, one of the events that launched the modern gay-rights movement.
He said transgender youths have become a particular target of discriminatory laws. Arkansas, Florida, Montana and West Virginia are among numerous states that have barred transgender girls from taking part in school sports, and Arkansas has also prohibited transgender surgery and other gender-affirming health care for youths, Bonta said. He said a new law in North Dakota allows organizations in publicly funded schools to deny membership to LGBTQ students.
A 2016 California law prohibits state agencies from ordering or paying for travel by their employees to states with new laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Before Monday, the list consisted of Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
“They’re harming and attacking the most vulnerable … not allowing kids to be kids,” Assembly Member Evan Low, D- Cupertino, author of the 2016 law and chair of the Legislature’s LGBTQ Caucus, said at the news conference. “We will not go back to the closet and we will not stay silent.”
He said some states, in response to pressure from businesses as well as the California law, have been backing away from their harshest measures. But Bonta said more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills had been introduced around the country as of this month, including 85 targeting transgender youths and adults.
The travel-ban law, Bonta said, “is about aligning our dollars with our values.”
Also at the news conference was 13-year-old Ryland Whittington, a transgender youth from San Diego.
“Being trans is just a small part of who I am,” he told reporters, as his mother stood nearby. “I’ve never been told I can’t play on a sports team.”
In a statement responding to Bonta’s action, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said, “While state employees may be barred from traveling here, Californians are fleeing by the thousands to places like Arkansas for our lower taxes, lower cost of living and abundant opportunities. The lure of our state parks and quality of life will overcome any edict from the California attorney general.”
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