Texas sues to strike down California travel ban that punishes states for LGBTQ policies

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Texas filed a lawsuit against California asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Golden State’s ban on state-funded travel to 11 states over their LGBTQ policies, arguing the prohibition violates First Amendment religious freedom protections.

Texas is claiming the ban is unconstitutionally “infected with animus towards religion,” hurts Texas businesses, and runs afoul of federal interstate commerce laws. Conversely, California claims it had to act because Texas was allegedly discriminating against LGBTQ individuals.

The ban was intended to apply pressure to conservative states and discourage lawmaking throughout the United States that in the opinion of California officials discriminates against LGBTQ persons.

The case, filed in the Supreme Court on Feb. 10, isn’t an appeal of a lower court’s ruling. Article III, Section II of the U.S. Constitution gives the Supreme Court what is called original jurisdiction over lawsuits between two or more states and in “all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls.”

California’s travel ban took effect in 2016 following the North Carolina “bathroom bill” that required individuals there to use public bathrooms that are designated for use by members of one of the two biological sexes, as opposed to gender identity. The issue gave rise to a divisive cultural debate nationwide that prompted left-leaning California officials to act. There are limited exceptions to the travel ban, including for trips related to litigation, California law enforcement, public health, welfare, or safety.

Oklahoma and Tennessee responded by banning state-sponsored travel to California.

The other states blacklisted by California in this manner are Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Iowa.

California added Texas to the ban in 2017 after the Lone Star State enacted a law that allows faith-based foster care and adoption agencies to refuse placements that go against their religious beliefs. California characterized the Texas law as preventing same-sex couples from adopting children.

But Texas rejects that characterization.

“Texas respects and honors the religious beliefs of its citizens,” the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said in a statement. “California lawmakers do not. As a co-author of California’s travel ban admitted, they see religious beliefs as nothing more than ‘code to discriminate against different people.’”

The legal complaint filed by Texas adds that California officials view laws protecting religious freedom as “the last gasp of a decrepit world view.”

“In California’s so-called forward thinking, it is not enough to burden religion in California; it must go further and coerce other States to increase burdens on religion within their own borders,” it states.

“Texas partners with a diverse array of agencies to expand the number of safe and loving homes available to children. California’s opposition to diverse and inclusive options for foster children, along with its decision to utilize commerce as a tool of economic warfare, divide the nation and demonstrate a disregard for the safety and well-being of Texas children.”

Paxton himself accused California of “attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption providers.”

“The law California opposes does not prevent anyone from contributing to child-welfare; in fact, it allows our state to partner with as many different agencies as possible to expand the number of safe and loving homes available to foster children,” Paxton said in a statement.

“Boycotting states based on nothing more than political disagreement breaks down the ability of states to serve as laboratories of democracy while still working together as one nation—the very thing our Constitution intended to prevent.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat, took a shot at Texas in comments provided to The Epoch Times.

“In California, we have chosen not to use taxpayer money to support laws discriminating against the LGBTQ community,” he said in a statement.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared Feb. 11, 2020, in The Epoch Times.