Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in San Francisco on March 24, 2021. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)
California Attorney General Rob Bonta added five states to the list of places to which travel will not be reimbursed with public money.
"The states are a part of a recent dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills signed into law in states all across the country," Bonta said Monday morning during a press conference at the GLBT Historical Society Museum in San Francisco.
Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia and Florida were added to the list Monday.
"As of June, there have been more than 250 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in state legislatures across the country, at least 95 of them directly targeting transgender Americans," Bonta said.
Bonta and state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, noted that most of the newly added states are targeted for enacting laws limiting the access of transgender youth to school sports and health care related to their gender identity.
"It's outrageous," Wiener said. "These are children who are just trying to be who they are and live their lives and do what we all want children to do, just to be happy and to grow, and to experience life." Instead, elected officials in these various states are "demonizing and targeting these children," Wiener added.
A state law that took effect in 2017 prohibits a state agency, department, board or commission from requiring any state employees, officers or members to travel to a state that discriminates against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. It falls to the attorney general each year to update the list.
Bonta said the law "is about aligning our dollars with our values." The law includes exemptions for some travel to banned states, such as sending first responders to help with natural disasters and health crises.
The 12 states that were already on the list before today are: Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Many of the states, including Texas and Florida, have sizable LGBTQ+ communities and businesses. Asked whether a law like this could inadvertently hurt them, Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Campbell, who wrote the original bill, said he hears from states on the no travel list that the ban can have a positive impact.
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"We've seen that because of the state action as well as private sector," he said. Some states have backtracked and repealed legislation. He also acknowledged "bold and courageous Republicans" that have opposed anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
"There are consequences that come to [those] discriminating against the most vulnerable in our communities," Low said. "That's what this conversation is about."
Among those speaking at the press conference was Ryland Whittington, a 13-year-old transgender teenager from San Diego who plays ice hockey and water polo. He said he felt "lucky" to live in a state like California.
"I've never been told I can't play on a sports team and I've never been denied medical care for who I am," he said.
"We just want the same rights as everyone else," he said. "Please give all kids the opportunity to be happy, healthy and live their lives with freedom and peace."
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