California's state travel ban goes nowhere | Opinion |

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CA state travel ban picture

CSUF men’s basketball players, like Vincent Lee, cannot use state funding to pay for travel for out-of-state competitions. (Navtej Hundal / Daily Titan)

California passed a law in 2017, that bans state-funded and state-sponsored travel to states with laws that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. In August and September of this year, the state added Arizona and Georgia, expanding the list to 23 states. 

AB 1887 is intended to allow California to flex its progressive muscles and show its opposition to states that discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Although this law set a precedent for non-discriminatory laws and civil rights protection, the travel ban has already proved to have little utility. 

The ban affects state agencies, departments, boards, commissions and authorities, such as Cal State Fullerton, from traveling to banned states. This burden is felt most by school organizations that rely on state funds to travel, like the athletics department. 

Jim Donovan, CSUF athletics director, said it would be difficult to reach the NCAA postseason without traveling to these states. CSUF men’s basketball team was slated to travel  to North Dakota in November, a state that is included on the ban list.   

Banning travel to states on the list prevents intercollegiate athletes from competing in games that could determine their eligibility to play in NCAA tournaments. 

“If, for example, you’re only playing California opponents, it would probably negatively affect your chance to be in one of those slots,” Donovan said. 

State funds cannot be used to travel to games that are in banned states, so fundraising is crucial to the athletics department. Sara Perry, the chief financial officer of the CSUF athletics department, said state funds make up a good portion of their budget, but it is not enough to cover all of their expenses. 

“Because of COVID, we’ve had some difficulty raising the same amount that we had done before COVID. But I would say this year, we’re on track to get close to where we fundraise annually before COVID,” Donovan said. 

If intercollegiate athletes cannot compete in these games, their chances of getting scouted to play for professional leagues diminish. It also means the athletics programs in public colleges and universities get less funding to send students to tournaments.

This law was intended to show California’s support for the LGBTQ community in other states by preventing state money from showing complicity in discrimination. However, the ban is backfiring and kneecapping intercollegiate athletes who have nothing to do with this bill. 

Sarah Hill teaches political science at Cal State Fullerton and said the travel ban has been a recent point of discussion among faculty members. 

“I think the legislature, they’ve kind of painted themselves into a corner, where actually at this point, the ban doesn’t make sense, unless they’re really going to mean it and genuinely ban travel,” Hill said. 

California dedicates itself to social justice and equity, but this law is purely performative. 

The law does not prevent state officials from traveling to banned states. Earlier this year, Governor Gavin Newsom used state funds to pay for his security when he vacationed in Montana, a banned state. These loopholes allow for hypocrisy, making the ban ineffective while the list of states subject to travel prohibition may continue to grow. 

If the state wants to stand with the LGBTQ community, the ban should be repealed and replaced with more policies that protect LGBTQ citizens. 

In the wave of discrimination against the LGBTQ community, California can propagate its non-discriminatory policies by becoming a sanctuary state. 

According to NPR, California lawmakers are planning on making the state a sanctuary for people seeking abortions who reside in states that prohibit abortion.

If the bill cannot be repealed, the California legislature should also consider making intercollegiate sports exempt from the ban because it does nothing but disadvantage intercollegiate athletes from furthering their careers. 

The travel ban throws a veil over other states in hopes of more LGBTQ-supported laws like a political card. The state legislature should consider improving resources to create more policies that protect the LGBTQ community.

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