Since January 1, 2017, California law has prohibited state-funded travel to places in the United States that enact legislation deemed discriminatory against same-sex couples or their families. Last week, a new state was added to the list: Oklahoma. California's "state travel ban" list, according to officials, is part of the state's effort to promote civil rights.
California's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) says on its website that "California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people." According to the OAG, that means not allotting tax dollars for travel to states that aren't as inclusive as California.
According to The Hill, Oklahoma's state government approved a law in April that will allow foster and adoption agencies to reject same-sex couples on religious grounds. Because California lawmakers deem such a law discriminatory against the LGBT community, the state will cease paying for or sponsoring travel to Oklahoma.
"California will not use state resources to support states that pass discriminatory laws," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a press release. He continued:
The law enacted in Oklahoma allows discrimination against LGBTQ children and aspiring LGBTQ parents who must navigate the adoption process. California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy.
Under the law, California may not require employees to travel to any of the banned states. State universities are expected to adhere to the rules, too.
But, there are several exceptions. A person may travel to a banned state if the trip is related to enforcing a California law, if the trip concerns meeting a contractual obligation put in place prior to the law's enactment, to comply with certain requests made by the federal government, or if job-related training cannot be met anywhere else, just to name a few. And it's worth noting that this law applies only to state-sponsored travel. Californians aren't banned from flying into Oklahoma if they wanted to pay for it themselves, for example.
"Every child deserves a loving, supportive family, and it’s neither pro-child, nor pro-family, for Oklahoma to deny them one," Equality California Executive Director Rick Zbur said in a statement about last week's decision. "California taxpayers won’t subsidize Oklahoma’s — or any state’s — discriminatory policies, and we’re grateful to Attorney General Becerra for taking this decisive action today in support of equality for all.”
As for the Oklahoma law in question, that would be S.B. 1140. It states that "no private child-placing agency shall be required to perform, assist, counsel, recommend, consent to, refer, or participate in any placement of a child for foster care or adoption when the proposed placement would violate the agency's written religious or moral convictions or policies."
Not all local officials supported the law. "To be clear that is the purpose of this bill. Is to restrict and discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation in their ability to adopt from certain agencies," said state Senator Michael Brooks, a Democrat, after the bill was passed, according to local outlet News On 6.
Some Oklahoma officials did not seem immediately upset about their state being added to California's travel ban list.
"Oklahoma has not banned adoptions to gays and others," Michael McNutt, communications director for Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, said, according to a local Fox affiliate. "Couples whose views differ from faith-based adoption agencies can go to a number of agencies willing to serve everyone who meets the Oklahoma Department of Human Services criteria for being a foster or adoptive person."
McNutt further suggested that the ban won't have a large economic impact on Oklahoma, either. "There appears to be more and more Californians sharing our values as we are seeing more Californians move to Oklahoma," he said. "With our state’s economy being as strong as it is, we won’t miss a few Californians traveling on state business showing up in our state."
Whether the Oklahoma law will face challenges in court is yet unclear. For now, California's law will stay in place.