California, ranked sixth among the top ten most liberal states in America, has taken another stride in the direction of topping the list. On Sept. 27, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1887. The bill forbids any taxpayer funded travel to Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee, all states with discriminatory anti-LGBTQIA+ laws. This bill has been emphasized as a direct response to North Carolina’s HB2, a bill which requires people to use public restrooms that are aligned with the assigned sex on their birth certificates. Evan Low is a gay assemblyman and one of the co-authors of the Californian bill. “California has said clearly, our taxpayer dollars will not help fund bigotry and hatred,” Low stated.
Although California is the first to pass a bill that encompasses all states discriminating against LGBTQIA+ people, it is not the first to ban travel to North Carolina. Washington D.C., Vermont and New York issued travel bans to the state after HB2 was passed. Similar bans were implemented in cities such as Seattle and San Francisco.
Each state included in the bill has their own unique discriminatory laws. In Kansas, college students are now allowed to discriminate as long as it’s rooted in religious beliefs. Similarly, Mississippi allows businesses, individual people and religious organizations to deny service to LGBTQIA+ people. Tennessee signed in House Bill 1840, which allows therapists to deny service to LGBTQIA+ people. Texas is likely to be added to the list because of their recent passing of the Texas Privacy Act, which clearly discriminates against transgender people.
As the choice made in California demonstrates, discriminatory behavior of any kind should not be tolerated. While I believe in religious freedom, it is not acceptable to use religion as a mask for your own prejudices. Furthermore, it is shown that LGBTQIA+ people are in more need of counseling than the average person because mental illness is more common in the community.
This is a difficult topic because while I appreciate the sentiment behind the bill, it could lead to issues instead of actual progress. I do agree that the states which have LGBTQIA+ discriminatory laws should not be endorsed in any way, at least until the laws are lifted. However, there are circumstances in which travel to these states funded by the government may be necessary. The primary and most valid circumstance would be if people were traveling to try and change the situation at hand. If people are able to travel to these states and create change by protesting the anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation, it could make a difference.
On the other hand, the Californian government is making a huge statement with this bill: discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community will not be tolerated. This zero tolerance policy is inspiring, especially since California is the first state to pass such a bill. Ideally, other states will choose to follow in California’s footsteps and put their foot down on discrimination. By taking the lead, California is paving the way for other states to enact policies against LGBTQIA+ discrimination. Beyond this, the bill also applies to California state universities. Millennials are the future of our nation, and by shielding them from the discrimination occurring in other states, they will grow or continue to be open minded about LGBTQIA+ rights.
Additionally, the bill could negatively affect the economy of the states in question. By having fewer people travel there, stay in hotels and purchase goods, they will see a decrease in tourist revenue. Beyond that, businesses can choose to make a stand locally by disregarding the discriminating laws. Money is a powerful way to protest discriminatory laws, because if the state government sees losses in revenue as a direct result of the law going into effect, there is more potential for the law to be repealed.
Most important is the bill going into effect right before Trump’s presidency. These last few days before the inauguration are the time to do as much as we can to resist in any way possible. Whether this looks like protesting, marching or praying, doing your part to resist a gross injustice and a failure in our democracy can ultimately lead to change.
We have a duty as the next generation of society to grow and evolve into kind, unbiased and open hearted people. As a University of Oregon student who grew up in Eugene, I used to think that’s how everybody was — even myself. However, the reality is that we all continue to develop these traits and grow our whole lives. By supporting each other to embark on this journey, we are creating change in our own community, which can affect other communities and in turn affect people everywhere. It all starts with you and what you might do as the clock is ticking.