Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Calif.)

California Bans Government Travel to 'Anti-LGBT' States

Anti-LGBT hate laws are continuing to cost states money as well as drive away business.

California will no longer fund trips for government officials to states that passed anti-LGBT legislation any time after June 26, 2015, according to a law that went into effect January 1. Currently, Assembly Bill 1887 prohibits travel to Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee but the list will be ongoing.

“The law also requires the Attorney General to develop, maintain, and post on her Internet Web site a current list of states that are subject to the travel ban,” according to the bill’s text.

California is the first state to pass such legislature. AB 1887 was co-sponsored and co-authored by Assemblyman Evan Low, who is gay.

“California has said clearly, our taxpayer dollars will not help fund bigotry and hatred,” said Low in a press release. “If other states try and pass similar laws, we will work to stop them. Our zero-tolerance policy says there is no room for discrimination of any kind in California, and AB 1887 ensures that discrimination will not be tolerated beyond our borders.”

“California has become the first state in the country to pass a law through its legislature banning travel to states with laws that discriminate against LGBT people. This new law will put the force of the world’s sixth largest economy behind a strong message that bigotry against LGBT people is costly,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, said in the same release. “It provides a strong disincentive to states that may be considering adopting anti-LGBT laws similar to North Carolina’s HB 2.”

North Carolina House Bill 2

The bill came in response to various anti-LGBT legislature that popped up across the country notably North Carolina’s House Bill 2, commonly known as the “bathroom bill,” which bars transgender people from using the public restroom that aligns with their gender identity. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill in March 2016.

HB2 garnered significant public backlash, particularly from many major businesses. More than 100 leading CEOs and business leaders, including several DiversityInc Top 50 companies, such asAccenture(No. 15),Kellogg Company(No. 30),TD Bank(No. 39) andHilton Worldwide(No. 42), sent a letter to Gov. Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly demanding the law be repealed.

IBM(No. 20), one of the state’s largest employers, publicly criticized the law and said it would “continue to follow its global non-discrimination policies in the workplace,” adding that “an inclusive and welcoming environment is the best way to attract talented individuals to our company.”

The bill also cost North Carolina the NBA’s 2017 All-Star Game, which was set to be played in Charlotte but will take place in New Orleans instead. This could cost the state about $100 million in lost revenue, reports indicate.

Mississippi House Bill 1523

In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant signed what was described as the most discriminatory “religious freedom” anti-LGBT bill in the country, House Bill 1523. HB 1523, known as the “Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” allows businesses and organizations to discriminate against LGBT people without consequence if the discrimination aligns with their “sincerely held religious beliefs or moral convictions.” Those beliefs, according to the bill, include that marriage is between a man and a woman and a person’s gender “refer[s] to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy and genetics at time of birth.”

The law, which was set to take effect on July 1, 2016, was blocked by U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves in June. According to Reeves, the law “violates both the guarantee of religious neutrality and the promise of equal protection of the laws.”

In July Mississippi’s Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood announced he would not appeal the bill, saying, “I am convinced that continuing this divisive and expensive litigation is not in the best interests of the state of Mississippi or its taxpayers.”

Bryant is moving forward with the appeal with the help of private attorneys. In December six amicus briefs were filed by 70 people or groups who are opposed to HB 1523.

Tennessee House Bill 1840

In April 2016 Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam (R) signed House Bill 1840, which makes it legal for therapists and counselors to turn down LGBT clients based on “sincerely held principles.” The bill’s original wording said “sincerely held religious beliefs” rather than principles.

Per the bill, therapists are not permitted to refuse clients who are an imminent danger to themselves or others, and therapists must refer their clients to another provider if they refuse to provide service.

“The substance of this bill doesn’t address a group, issue or belief system,” the governor said. “Rather, it allows counselors just as we allow other professionals like doctors and lawyers to refer a client to another counselor when the goals or behaviors would violate a sincerely held principle. I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs.”

However, the American Counseling Association (ACA) slammed the bill when it was first approved in March, calling this first-of-its-kind measure “an unprecedented attack on the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics.”

“The ACACode of Ethicsclearly states that professional counselors may not deny services to a client regardless of that person’s ‘age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.’ (Section C.5),” the ACA wrote on itswebsite. “Counselors put aside their own needs in order to understand those of their clients.”

Kansas Senate Bill 175

Kansas’ Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in March 2016 signed Senate Bill 175, which allows student associations at colleges to discriminate freely assuming the discrimination “compl[ies] with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct.” Student groups who discriminate against students can not face penalty from the university, even if they go against the school’s own discrimination policy.

Brownback signed the bill during what appeared to be a momentous occasion, accompanied by conservative lawmakers, activists and groups. He expressed his pleasure that students can now “enjoy this bedrock American principle.”

“Religious liberty is part of the essence of who we are as a nation and as a state,” he said. “At our founding, people coming to the United States came here seeking religious liberty. I’m pleased to sign SB 175 today, the Campus Religious Freedom Bill, ensuring that college students can also enjoy this bedrock American principle.”

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