California bans state-funded travel to Idaho over recent transgender legislation

Chris Mosier, a Team USA athlete and transgender activist, kneels as he listens to speakers at a rally at the Statehouse on Tuesday, March 3 against Idaho’s HB500 banning transgender athletes from participating in women’s sports. | IdahoEdNews.org

California is banning state-funded travel to Idaho in response to two Gem State laws the California attorney general claims discriminate against members of the transgender community.

Earlier this year, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed House Bills 500 and 509. Respectively, the bills ban intersex and transgender women and girls from participating in female sports at public schools, colleges and universities and prohibit transgender people from changing the sex listed on their birth certificates. Both bills were quickly challenged in federal court.

RELATED | Little signs GOP’s anti-transgender bills, setting up likely legal challenges

These bills triggered a California state law prohibiting taxpayer-funded travel to states with “discriminatory” practices, the California attorney general announced Monday. This includes California state agencies, departments, boards, authorities, commissions, the University of California, the Board of Regents of the University of California, and California State University, according to the legislation.

“Where states legislate discrimination, California unambiguously speaks out,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a Monday press release. “The State of Idaho has taken drastic steps to undermine the rights of the transgender community, preventing people from playing sports in school or having documentation that reflects their identity.”

RELATED | Ehardt to introduce bill banning transgender women from women’s sports

Assembly Bill 1887, first passed by the California State Assembly in 2016, bans state-funded travel to any state that passes a law authorizing “discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression,” or repeals existing state or local protections against such discrimination. The legislation allows for limited travel under certain exceptions, including the enforcement of California law, the protection of health and safety, requirements for licensing or grant funding and contractual obligations incurred before Jan. 1, 2017.

It’s unclear how this would affect athletic competitions between California and Idaho schools. Some California schools have opted to use private funds to pay for teams to travel to states on the banned list. San Diego State University did this in 2018 to pay for travel to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Wichita, Kansas, the Wichita Eagle reported.

RELATED | Hundreds of athletes ask NCAA to forbid Idaho from hosting sports events in response to transgender athlete legislation

“Let’s not beat around the bush: These laws are plain and simple discrimination,” Becerra said. “That’s why Idaho joins the list of AB 1887 discriminating states.”

In an email statement to the Idaho Statesman, Idaho’s governor pushed back.

“I do not believe that protecting the rights of women and girls to participate in athletics or recording objective facts constitute discrimination,” Little said.

Idaho joins 11 other states subject to California’s ban on state-funded and state-sponsored travel under the bill. California taxpayer-funded travel to Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas is banned under this law. In February, Texas sued California for the ban, which was instituted after Texas passed a law allowing faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to decline placements that they say violate their religious beliefs, according to a U.S News and World Report.

Last week, U.S. Attorney General William Barr voiced support for Idaho and HB 500, and weighed in on the ACLU lawsuit filed against the bill, Lindsay Hecox vs. Little. Hecox is a transgender woman and student at Boise State University who hoped to try out for the Boise State cross-country team in August.

RELATED | Trump administration defends Idaho’s transgender athletics legislation

Barr, appointed by President Donald Trump after he ousted his first AG, Jeff Sessions, claims the Constitution does not require Idaho to provide the “special treatment … under which biological males are allowed to compete against biological females if and only if the biological males are transgender.”

California’s ban and Barr’s support comes amid criticism from the NCAA, which has publicly condemned Idaho’s transgender athlete bill and hinted it could jeopardize Boise State’s ability to continue as a host for first- and second-round games in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

It also comes a week after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a historic decision, announcing that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace.

In an op-ed published Monday in the Idaho Statesman, Rep. Illana Rubel, D-Boise, criticized the GOP-led Idaho Legislature for failing to pass legislation that could have helped Idahoans weather the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, Rubel said, Idaho Republicans “passed the nation’s most extreme anti-transgender legislation.”

“In doing so, the GOP supermajority disregarded warnings from current and former attorneys general that the bills were unconstitutional and would cost the state a fortune to defend, and they ignored forceful opposition by many of the state’s largest employers (including Micron, the INL, Clif Bar and Chobani) who warned of serious harm to business interests,” Rubel wrote in the op-ed. “Now, our reeling businesses and workers must pay the price for these legislators’ reckless actions at a time when we can least afford it.”

Idaho Statesman reporter Ruth Brown contributed to this report.

This story first appeared in the Idaho Statesman. It is used here with permission.