December 4, 2022

California bans state-funded travel to Indiana over transgender sports law

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California has banned state-funded travel to Indiana due to its recently enacted bill prohibiting transgender girls from participating in girls school sports.

Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed the controversial House Bill 1041, but in May lawmakers voted to override it and the law went into effect July 1.  Aside from an ongoing lawsuit, California’s decision is the first backlash to the new law. 

It’s unclear precisely how many Californians would be prohibited from travelling here. California enacted a law to ban certain state-funded travel to states that have laws that discriminate based on gender identity. California’s ban generally applies to state agencies, departments, boards, authorities and commissions, and includes such from the University of California and California State University.

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The law likely would not impact college sports teams, as long as sports teams use non-state money to travel.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta added Indiana to the list of 20 states where such travel is prohibited when House Bill 1041 went into effect July 1. 

Bonta said the state is “committed to standing up against discrimination in all its forms.”

“Make no mistake: There is a coordinated, ongoing attack on transgender rights happening right now all across the country,” Bonta said in a statement. “Blanket legislation targeting transgender children is a ‘solution’ in search of a problem. It is detached from reality and directly undermines the well-being of our LGBTQ+ community.”

Holcomb’s office declined to comment on the California travel restrictions. House Speaker Todd Huston and Senate President Pro Tempore Rodric Bray did not respond to request for comment. 

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita shared Bonta’s release on Twitter on Wednesday, stating “While we will miss the liberal government employees from California visiting the Hoosier state this summer, we choose protections for our K-12 girls over them any day.”

While the new law is already in effect, it’s being challenged in the courts.

RFRA generated greater backlash

After lawmakers passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015, multiple states and cities enacted bans on government-funded travel to Indiana. So far, California is the only state to do so regarding the transgender sports ban. 

RFRA, which LGBTQ rights activists said would be used to discriminate against them, generated a much larger reaction, including multiple conventions threatening to pull out of their commitments to Indiana before lawmakers backed down and watered down the bill. 

Chris Gahl, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Visit Indy, said the organization has not heard from any existing perspective convention, meeting or tradeshow that has expressed concern about any recently passed legislation, including House Bill 1041.

“Anytime there’s a perceived or real barrier to driving tourism, we take notice,” Gahl said. “We’ve experienced bans before and have worked our way through them as a tourism industry, and we plan on keeping a close eye on how recent news out of California could or will impact Indianapolis tourism.”

Litigation moving forward

Just minutes after the General Assembly overrode Holcomb’s veto of the transgender sports ban, the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Public Schools district on behalf of a 10-year-old transgender girl who will no longer be able to play softball on her school’s all-girls’ softball team.

The litigation remains ongoing.

Call IndyStar reporter Kaitlin Lange at 317-432-9270 or email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @kaitlin_lange.

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