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Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme rejected a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) challenging a California ban on state-funded travel to states with discriminatory laws, including Texas.
The Lone Star State found itself added to the list of problematic states in 2017, after lawmakers passed a bill allowing adoption and foster care agencies to cite religious beliefs as justification for turning away same-sex couples, religious minorities, and other prospective parents.
Under the ban, government agencies, public universities, and boards may not use taxpayer dollars to fund work-related trips to states on the list.
In his lawsuit, Paxton argued that the travel ban was “born of religious animus” and violates the Constitution, arguing that allowing the travel ban to stand would lead conservative and liberal states to retaliate against each other for laws each side finds objectionable, reports USA Today.
But California argued that Texas was simply seeking to penalize it for reaching a different conclusion: that taxpayer dollars should not be used to fund discrimination.
On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear Paxton’s lawsuit, declining to give a reason for why its action. However, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented, saying they would have allowed the case to be argued before the high court.
The case came to the court as California is likely to expand its list to include other states that have passed a slew of anti-LGBTQ laws, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia, to name a few.
In past years, the bills that could land a state on the travel ban list included adoption bills, like the one passed in Texas, “bathroom bills” restricting which facilities transgender people may use in government buildings, or bills allowing county clerks to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages as valid. This year, many states have passed measures allowing discrimination under the guise of religion through RFRA-type laws, have sought to ban transgender youth from competing in sports based on their gender identity, or have sought to ban transgender youth from accessing gender-affirming treatments.
Texas currently is weighing similar measures, earning warnings from business leaders that such laws could discourage investment or cause corporations to second-guess relocating to the state out of fear that any LGBTQ employees would be targeted by such laws.
Last week, members of the business advocacy group Texas Competes — which includes more than 1,450 Texas employers, businesses and tourism groups — flagged 26 different measures working their way through the Texas Legislature that are likely to infringe on the lives of LGBTQ Texans and will ultimately harm the state’s repuation as a welcoming place to do business, according to the Texas Tribune.
“Businesses big and small and economies thrive on certainty,” Jessica Shortall, the managing director of Texas Competes, said. “What we’re faced with again this year is the uncertainty of whether discriminatory policies will rear their heads and cause all of the problems you’ve heard from our business speakers.”
Just two days after the Supreme Court rejected Texas’s lawsuit, the Texas Senate approved a bill seeking to penalize doctors who recommend gender-affirming treatments for gender dysphoria to minors, and would classify parents who allow their children to receive such treatment as child abusers — potentially even paving the way for them to lose custody of their children.
Amber Briggle, the parent of a transgender child, told lawmakers she was “terrified” that her child might be taken away from her when she testified against the bill earlier this month, her voice cracking and tears welling up in her eyes.
“[M]y son is 13 years old, the most popular boy in the seventh grade, and is loved by our friends, our family, our church, and our community,” Briggle said. “This is possible because he has parents who affirm him, and provide him the support he needs. Taking that support away from him, or worse, taking him away from his family, because we broke the law to provide that support, will have devastating and heartbreaking consequences.”
The Texas Senate has also previously passed a bill barring transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that align with their gender identity. That bill could spark additional backlash against Texas from the NCAA, which recently warned states hoping to host championships or tournaments that host sites must commit to providing discrimination-free environments for all players and fans.
If the bill passes and the NCAA retaliates, the Lone Star State could lose the economic benefits that come from hosting big-ticket events, such as the 2024 College Football Playoff National Championship, currently scheduled to take place in Houston, or the 2023 Women’s Final Four basketball tournament, scheduled to take place in Dallas.
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