States Mulling Bathroom Bills Could Lose California’s Travel Bucks

From labor disputes cases to labor and employment publications, for your research, you’ll find solutions on Bloomberg Law®. Protect your clients by developing strategies based on Litigation...

By Laura Mahoney

At least 13 states trying to limit restroom access to those whose sex at birth matches the designation on the bathroom door could land on California’s travel ban list.

Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee are already on the list of states where California employees or officers can’t travel with state funding. Lawmakers enacted the ban in 2016 in response to measures enacted in those states that same year. California’s attorney general is charged with maintaining the list of states subject to the travel ban.

According to the AG, those four states allow discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression either by rolling back existing laws or creating new rules that discriminate.

California Lawmaker: ‘Prejudice Will Cost You.’

Former California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) issued the list in January, and new A.G. Xavier Becerra (D) will decide whether bills passed in additional states may also trigger the travel ban.

Lawmakers who backed the measure are watching.

“To legislatures considering singling out LGBT people for discrimination, the world’s sixth largest economy has a message for you: your prejudice will cost you,” California Assemblyman Evan Low (D), author of the ban (A.B. 1887), told Bloomberg BNA in an email March 21.

So far in 2017, lawmakers in Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina and Washington are weighing bills that would restrict the use of restrooms in various settings based on a person’s biological sex, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Another nine states and Missouri have introduced bills on the topic that apply only to public schools.

Tennessee Senator: Keep Moral Judgment to Yourself

One of the states on California’s list—Tennessee—is considering its own resolution in response to California’s ban. State Sen. Mike Bell (R) introduced S.J.R. 111 calling on lawmakers in Tennessee and other states to refrain from enacting similar bans. The resolution passed the state Senate 25-3 on March 13 and will be considered next in the House.

People in different states disagree about many issues but those disagreements shouldn’t result in measures like the travel ban, Bell said on the Tennessee Senate floor before the vote.

“Where [California lawmakers] took a step that I think could potentially lead to an economic civil war between the states is by banning state-paid travel,” Bell said.

Tennessee’s nonbinding resolution stops short of calling for a reciprocal ban. Instead, it urges the governor, the speaker of the Senate, and the speaker of the House of Representatives to “communicate with fellow governors and legislative leaders and urge these state officials to refrain from imposing moral judgment on their sister states as California has done in order to prevent escalating foolishness.”

California’s Low told Bloomberg BNA the Tennessee resolution doesn’t change his state’s view of the issue.

“We remain steadfast in our opposition to policies that discriminate against LGBT people, even if it has been inconvenient for the states included in our travel ban,” he said.

Bruins Go to Tennessee Anyway

Still, it’s hard to put a stop to college sports, especially college basketball in the month of March. The University of California, Los Angeles men’s basketball team will travel to Tennessee to play the University of Kentucky in the Sweet 16 round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship tournament. The two teams will meet on March 24, one year and a day after North Carolina passed legislation that landed it on California’s travel ban list.

A spokesman for the UCLA athletics department told the UCLA Daily Bruin in February that the school’s athletic programs don’t receive state funding but won’t schedule future games in states on the travel ban list. The university will make exceptions for post-season play so it doesn’t deny students the right to play in those games.

Low said he’s disappointed the Bruins are going to Tennessee, but without the use of public funds the trip doesn’t violate the law.

“Boycotting the game would have been an opportunity for them to take a strong stance against Tennessee’s anti-LGBT legislation,” he said.

California Ban

Under California’s law, states are subject to the travel ban if they’ve enacted laws since June 26, 2015, that void or repeal existing protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

The ban also applies if states enacted laws that authorize or require discrimination against same-sex couples or their families, including laws that create exemptions to anti-discrimination rules.

There are exceptions under the law, for example, for law enforcement or revenue collection purposes, or to meet contractual obligations incurred before the law took effect Jan. 1, 2017.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura Mahoney in Sacramento, Calif. at LMahoney@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Christopher Opfer at copfer@bna.com

Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Request Labor & Employment on Bloomberg Law