California has banned state-funded travel to Kansas after determining that the Sunflower State is one of four in the nation with laws that it views as discriminatory toward gay people.
The policy could prevent public universities in California from scheduling sporting events with Kansas teams and raises the question of whether teams will travel to Wichita in 2018, when the city is scheduled to host two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“California must take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people,” states the California law, which was passed in September.
The law prohibits state agencies and universities from using state dollars to pay for travel to states with laws it views as discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. There are a few exceptions, such as for law enforcement purposes.
Kansas is on the travel prohibition list because of a 2016 law that enabled college campus religious groups to require that members adhere to their religious beliefs and standards. That law was crafted partially in response to a controversy in California that occurred when a Christian student group lost recognition on California State University campuses for failure to comply with an “all comers” non-discrimination policy in 2014.
Other states on the list are North Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi.
Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, who sponsored the Kansas legislation, said the California attorney general’s office misunderstood the purpose of the law. “It’s to prevent discrimination,” he said.
“I think there’s more evidence now that when we build the wall we need to build it up the California border,” Fitzgerald added, referring to President Trump’s plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
The biggest impact of the California law will likely be in college athletics.
Josh Rupprecht, spokesman for UCLA’s athletic department, said it does not rely on state funds for its sports teams, but that “moving forward, the athletic department will not schedule future games in states that fail to meet the standards established by the new law.”
Asked whether this would prevent UCLA from traveling to Wichita for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2018, Rupprecht said in a second e-mail that should “the NCAA assign us to a tournament bracket in a state affected by AB 1887, barring unforeseen circumstances, we will not deny our student-athletes the right to participate in postseason play.”
Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, one of the main groups that pushed for the Kansas law, dismissed California’s restriction on official travel as a publicity stunt and said seven other states also had laws similar to the Kansas law that protect campus religious groups.
“Maybe in California they do not believe that Jewish students should get to be in charge of the Jewish student association, or that Baptist students should be able to ensure that the Baptist student union stands for the things that Baptists believe in, but fortunately California does not make law in Kansas,” Schuttloffel said. “We have no interest in importing California’s anti-religious intolerance. And frankly if UCLA is scared to play KU in basketball, they should just come out and say it.”
Full story at The Wichita Eagle.