SF bans travel to South Dakota
by Matthew S. Bajko
San Francisco this week banned its employees from using taxpayer money to travel to South Dakota now that lawmakers in the Mount Rushmore State have become the first to enact anti-LGBT legislation in 2017.
Last Friday, March 10, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law Senate Bill 149, which legally protects faith-based adoption and foster care organizations that refuse, based on their religious beliefs, to place children in LGBT households. A broad coalition of national adoption advocates and LGBT rights groups had opposed the bill, noting that same-sex couples are six times as likely to become foster parents than different-sex couples.
Now South Dakota could also become the fifth state on the travel ban list maintained by California officials due to passage of the law.
At the start of the year, California named a quartet of states – Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kansas – to its list banning state officials from using taxpayer money to travel to those states due to their having enacted legislation that discriminates against LGBT people since June 26, 2015.
The law, which went into effect January 1, also applies to the University of California and California State systems and has impacted sports teams' schedules and student participation at conferences in the banned states.
In February, San Francisco officials announced the city would follow the state's lead and banned city and county employees from using municipal funds to travel to the four states on California's list. The city's law, however, goes further than the state's and also bans San Francisco city departments from contracting with businesses headquartered in the states on the travel ban list.
Following Daugaard's decision, the Bay Area Reporter last week asked both the office of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco City Administrator Naomi Kelly if they were reviewing whether to ban taxpayer-funded travel to South Dakota.
On Monday, San Francisco officials said they were reviewing the law to determine if South Dakota should be added to their list. A day later they had decided that it qualified.
"After review of the South Dakota bill the City and County of San Francisco is adding them to the list. We are currently in the process of adding the information to the Office of Contract Administrations site and bidding information," Jack Gallagher, a policy aide in the city administrator's office, wrote in an emailed reply to the B.A.R.
As for the attorney general's press office, it had yet to respond to the B.A.R.'s inquiry by press time Wednesday. But sources in Sacramento said Becerra's office is looking into if it should add South Dakota to its travel ban list.
It is unclear how long the review will take. The website for the state travel ban – https://oag.ca.gov/ab1887 – had not been updated as of Wednesday morning.
In an emailed response to questions, gay state Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), who authored the legislation creating California's travel ban, told the B.A.R. that he was "disturbed and disappointed" by the actions of South Dakota lawmakers. He indicated that the state should now be placed on the travel ban list.
"In California, we are dedicated to safeguarding the civil rights of all residents. And with last year's passage of Assembly Bill 1887, we took an important step to ensuring our state funds do not benefit discrimination against LGBT people," wrote Low. "AB 1887 serves two important purposes: to ensure employees are not required to travel to discriminatory states as part of their employment, and to prevent our public funds from benefiting states that pass anti-LGBT laws."
He added that, "As the world's sixth largest economy, California is ready and able to use its economic power to hold discriminatory states accountable for their hateful policies."
Statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality California, which backed Low's bill, declined to comment when asked by the B.A.R. this week if it was calling on the AG's office to now add South Dakota to the travel ban list.
Kelsey Pritchard, a spokeswoman for South Dakota's governor, did not respond by press time Wednesday to the B.A.R.'s questions about the state being placed on the travel ban lists.
Tennessee's state Senate passed a resolution Monday condemning California's travel ban policy and urging other states not to engage in "economic warfare" by adopting similar policies. It plans to send the resolution to members of every legislative body in the country as well as to organizers of several major state government conferences.
South Dakota could also find itself on the travel ban list maintained by Santa Clara County, which in June 2015 became the first municipal government to adopt a travel restriction to states with anti-LGBT laws. As of December, Santa Clara County had banned taxpayer-funded travel to North Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
Asked Monday if Santa Clara County officials would be adding South Dakota to the travel ban list, gay deputy county executive David Campos told the B.A.R. "I'm not sure."
Noting it was his first day on the job, Campos, a former San Francisco supervisor, added, "but LGBTQ issues are a top priority here."
He said the county is "proudly at the forefront and will fight any effort to target the LGBTQ community."
Both the state and local travel bans exempt trips necessary for law enforcement reasons, those needed to meet prior contractual obligations, or for the protection of public health or welfare.