Citing LGBT discrimination, California bans state travel to Kentucky and three other states

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California's attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Kentucky and three other states on Thursday in response to what he considers anti-LGBT rights laws enacted this year.

Chris Hartman, the director of Louisville's Fairness Campaign, said that the bill the California AG is retaliating against, Senate Bill 17, could have indirect repercussions on the LGBT community in one of the nation's more gay-friendly cities.

"This is a clear example of the unforeseen consequences that even a vaguely anti-LGBT bill can have," Hartman said. "This is a bill that we opposed, and here we have a real-world economic consequence of passing this bill."

The worry is that SB 17, which goes into effect this summer, could lead to scenarios where LGBTQ students are prevented from joining a Christian club led by students who disagree with homosexuality.

SB 17 was sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London. Robinson said it affirms students' constitutional right to express religious and political views in public schools. He said school officials previously have violated students' rights to express themselves for fear of being sued, but this legislation makes it clear that those discussions are OK.

Louisville has been widely accepted as an LGBT-friendly city. In 2015, Louisville ranked 11th in the country for gay residents, and the University of Louisville was named one of the most LGBTQ-friendly campuses in the South by Campus Pride Index.

in 2015, Hartman said gays have flocked to Louisville since 1999, when it became one of the first cities in the South to have a comprehensive law barring discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation.

"This is a place where people feel comfortable being themselves," he said.

Amanda Stamper, spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Bevin's office, did not immediately return a request for comment.

California's Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Texas, Alabama, South Dakota and Kentucky to the list of places where state employee travel is restricted. Lawmakers passed legislation last year banning non-essential travel to states with laws that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee are already on the list.

California taxpayers' money "will not be used to let people travel to states who chose to discriminate," Becerra said.

It's unclear what practical effect California's travel ban will have. The state law contains exemptions for some trips, such as travel needed to enforce California law and to honor contracts made before 2017. Travel to conferences or out-of-state training are examples of trips that could be blocked. Becerra's office couldn't provide information about how often state employees have visited the newly banned states.

"California may 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 John Wittman, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican.

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