Photo: Thomas B. Shea, Freelance
AUSTIN — A day after California banned state-funded travel to Texas, citing a new Lone Star adoption law they say is discriminatory, Texas officials on Friday mocked the decision as a cheap political stunt.
There were suggestions that Texas lawmakers might retaliate when they come into a special session starting July 18.
“California might be able to stop their state employees, but they can’t stop all the businesses that are fleeing over taxation and regulation, and relocating to Texas,” said Gov. Greg Abbott‘s press secretary. John Wittman.
Privately, Abbott aides and legislative leaders dissed the California move as hollow. noting that if the Golden State is so concerned about discrimination and human rights outside its borders, then why did their Gov. Jerry Brown recently visit China.
Several said California’s move appears hypocritical. In China, gay marriage is illegal, workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is common, same-sex rape is not against the law, and the civil rights of LGBTQ people are not protected.
“It’s funny how the very state that is so adamantly against keeping terrorists out of our country — they oppose the President’s travel ban — now wants to keep Californians out of Texas,” said Marc Rylander, communications director for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. “I guess that’s California logic.”
Others seemed ready to fire back at California over the snub. “I hope @GregAbbott_TX will let us reciprocate during the special session,” tweeted state Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock.
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UT plays the University of Southern California Trojans the following week in California.
“Boo-hoo, they can’t come,” snarked one Capitol official. “They’ll miss the Alamo, the Cowboys and Texansw, the Rockets and Spurs, Texas barbeque and the best state in the nation to do business. Keep this up and they’ll have no place to go.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra touched off the escalating war of words on Thursday by adding four states to a list of places where California-funded or sponsored travel is prohibited, under a state law that restricts the expenditure of state funds to places that “authorize discrimination” against people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It also covers places that repeal state or local protections for LGBTQ citizens or create exemptions to laws to permit discrimination against same-sex couples or families.
The target of the Texas listing is a new Texas law that allows child welfare providers to deny adoptions to parents based on “sincerely held religious beliefs.” California officials said that is discriminatory.
Alabama, Kentucky and South Dakota were also added to the list on Thursday. Spokesman for governors in those states said Friday they were reviewing the California ban and had no immediate comment.
Based on its law, California now bans state-funded travel to eight states. The others are Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Even Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton appeared to take a swipe at his California counterpart, noting in a statement that Californians continue to flock to Texas as a better place to live and work.
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“I talk to people almost every day who made the trek from California to Texas, and without fail, they tell me their move is due to either greater job opportunities, much lower-priced housing, an escape from a left-coast political climate, or just a better quality of culture and life,” he said.
Under a new law that took effect in California on Jan. 1 that bans state-funded travel to places with discriminatory laws, Becerra has to keep a list of those laws and the places where state travel is banned.
In addition to allowing child-welfare agencies to refuse a placement based on religious beliefs, he new Texas law — House Bill 3859 by Rep. James Frank, R-Wichita Falls — also allows faith-based organizations to place children in religious schools and to deny referrals for certain contraceptives, drugs or devices.
Under the law, if an organization refuses services to children or prospective parents on religious grounds, they will be required to refer the child or parent to a different organization, Frank’s office said Friday.
Hotly debated by lawmakers before it passed, supported by the conservative Republicans who control both legislative chambers in Texas, the bill supported by religious organizations who said said they would have stop assisting with placements if they were forced to violate their religious beliefs.
LGBTQ groups blasted the measure as a way to allow discrimination.
Amid the wrangling Friday between officials in Texas and California, several advocacy groups in Texas sided with the Golden State position.
In statements, they said that the 7,000-member Professional Convention Management Association has canceled a convention in Houston because of its moves to pass anti-transgender laws and that the NFL and CEOs of several top corporations including Microsoft, Apple, Amazon and Dell have warned Texas against passing the discriminatory laws.
“We’re watching a slow-motion economic train wreck here, and the special session could turn that into a full-on disaster,” said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, an advocacy group that opposes the Christian right.
“This goes beyond the very real moral problem with discriminating against people simply because of who they are or whom they love. What should be increasingly clear even to the governor and lieutenant governor is that their obsession with writing discrimination into law risks turning Texas into a state that people and companies simply don’t want to visit or do business in.”