Metro Weekly

California bans official state travel to Idaho in protest of anti-transgender laws

California AG Xavier Becerra calls birth certificate and transgender athlete bills "plain and simple discrimination"

california, idaho, trans ban
California AG Xavier Becerra – Photo: Office of the California Attorney General.

On Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) added Idaho to a list of 11 other states where state-funded travel is prohibited because those states have laws that discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community.

Becerra’s office objected to two recently passed laws targeting the transgender community. The first prohibits transgender student-athletes from competing on athletic teams consistent with their gender identity, and the other prohibits transgender people from amending birth certificates to reflect their gender identity.

“Where states legislate discrimination, California unambiguously speaks out,” Becerra said in a 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. Let’s not beat around the bush: these laws are plain and simple discrimination.”

Becerra argues that the laws passed in Idaho — and in other states on the list — violate a 2016 California law that restricts state agencies from requiring employees to travel to any state that has enacted a law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and prohibits agencies from approving state-funded travel to those same states.

The travel ban will take effect July 1.

But Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) objected to Becerra’s classification of the law, saying in an email to the Idaho Statesman: “I do not believe that protecting the rights of women and girls to participate in athletics or recording objective facts constitute discrimination.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a statement of interest calling on the federal courts to uphold Idaho’s law, with Attorney General William Barr issuing a public statement calling the inclusion of transgender athletes in women’s sports “fundamentally unfair” to cisgender women.

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently suing over the law, arguing that it violates equal protection under the law.

It’s unclear how the addition of Idaho to the list might affect athletic competitions between California and Idaho schools, although some schools have opted to use private funds to pay for travel. According to the Wichita Eagle, San Diego State used private funds to travel to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Wichita, Kansas, in 2018.

Idaho’s Boise State University is currently scheduled to host the first- and second-round games in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, but that status could be jeopardized due to the transgender athlete law, which runs afoul of NCAA policy and has been condemned by the college sports organization.

A coalition of collegiate and professional athletes, as well as civil rights groups, is currently calling for the NCAA to relocate the tournament from Idaho, just as the NCAA pulled seven sports championships from North Carolina in 2016 after that state passed its infamous HB 2 “bathroom bill.”

The NCAA Board of Governors is scheduled to discuss the Idaho law and determine a course of action in August.

Idaho House Minority Leader Rep. Ilana Rubel (D-Boise), told the Mercury News in a statement that the law could have disastrous economic consequences for the Gem State, much in the way that North Carolina experienced an economic backlash post-HB 2. 

“It was extremely foreseeable that Idaho’s new anti-transgender laws would create a cascading financial disaster for our state,” Rubel said. “Now, our reeling businesses and workers must pay the price.”

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