California Legislators Add Iowa to Travel Blacklist

By Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.
September 23, 2019 Updated: September 25, 2019

The California government has blacklisted state-funded travel to Iowa after the Hawkeye State passed a law to prevent taxpayer-funded gender reassignment surgeries in that state.

In May, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the legislation, House File 766, blocking Medicaid-funded gender transition surgeries, two months after the state Supreme Court ruled these surgeries could be covered under its Civil Rights Act.

The legislation triggered a response from California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who accused Iowa’s state government of discrimination.

“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming healthcare,” Becerra said in a media release. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it.”

Iowa brings the number of states blacklisted under California’s Assembly Bill 1887 to 11. The law, passed in 2016 under the leadership of former Gov. Jerry Brown, prohibits state-funded or state-sponsored travel to any states that remove existing state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

Becerra’s order, which goes into effect Oct. 4, means that public employees and college students can’t take state-sponsored trips to Iowa, except those “required” under certain exceptions. States that have already been blacklisted include Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas—all red states, according to 2016 presidential election results.

A Senate Judiciary Committee bill analysis of AB 1887 delivered June 20, 2016, by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson cites court rulings about same-sex marriage and religious freedom laws in other states as a justification for the travel ban.

While supporters argue the ban is working to affect social change and discourage discrimination, critics say California Democrats are attempting to impose left-wing social spending policies beyond state borders.

Backlash against California’s AB 1887 showed up in the form of a 2017 resolution passed by the Tennessee Legislature, which stated, “California’s attempt to influence public policy in our state is akin to Tennessee expressing its disapproval of California’s exorbitant taxes, spiraling budget deficits, runaway social welfare program, and rampant illegal immigration.”

In Iowa, Reynolds defended HF 766 as a “narrow provision clarifying longstanding state policy in response to the court ruling,” according to The Associated Press. In reaction to the travel ban, Reynolds referred to California as a state with “high taxes, excessive business costs, and expensive housing,” the Sept. 18 AP report stated.

Whether or not legal challenges to HF 766 will hold up to judicial scrutiny in the Iowa Supreme Court remains to be seen.

California State Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) told The Epoch Times that he opposed the existing travel ban and the latest move to add Iowa to the list of targeted states.

Mathis criticized California legislators for being so focused on legislation passed in other states, as well as on President Donald Trump.

“They have brought 60 lawsuits against the president of the United States alone this legislative cycle,” Mathis said in a text on Sept. 20. “Maybe they need to focus on the issues here in California. In the Central Valley, we could use a lot of these funds to handle real issues.”

According to AB 1887, “California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.”

“Discrimination is wrong and we should condemn it at every opportunity,” Mathis said, “but I feel the way to fight discrimination is not to hide from people who disagree with you—we should engage and educate them.”

He argued that the travel ban is also unfair to students, including those who are athletes, while California politicians can still travel to Iowa with state funding under many exceptions. AB 1887 prohibits state-funded colleges from allowing athletes to participate in sporting events in the blacklisted states.

“Many students at public colleges and universities, who don’t have special interests or campaign slush funds to pay their way like the majority party, are forced to raise money to attend conferences, competitions and athletic events,” Mathis said. “Students at Cal State Fullerton had to crowdsource funding to attend a debate competition. Athletic teams must rely on donations to attend tournaments in states that are subject to the travel ban.”

Brad Jones
Brad Jones
Brad Jones is an award-winning journalist based in Southern California.