Iowa is the 11th state to be placed on California’s no-travel list. Effective soon, California will prohibit state-funded travel to Iowa.
The travel ban is part of a California law passed in 2016 that bars state resources from being used to travel to states that repeal existing protections for sexual orientation and gender identity. In his announcement, the California attorney general singled out Iowa’s 2019 law blocking state insurance coverage for transgender health care.
This is yet another sign of Iowa’s sinking national reputation, attributable to policies championed by the state’s socially conservative politicians.
To be clear, California’s travel ban is bad policy, unlikely to achieve its stated goal of starving discriminatory states of economic support.
Californians have found workarounds to continue traveling to restricted states, the Los Angeles Times reported last month. Elected officials use campaign money to fund trips the state won’t cover. The real losers are college sports teams and academic units, which are forced to raise private funds for their travel.
While California’s law is stupid, Iowa’s law is both stupid and hateful. If the choice is between stupidity and hate, we choose neither.
This entirely avoidable controversy stemmed from an Iowa Supreme Court case decided this year. In March, the court ruled that a state regulation barring Medicaid coverage for gender-affirming surgery was in violation of the Iowa Civil Rights Act. Notably, none of Iowa’s justices dissented from the opinion.
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That decision was unpopular with Republicans who control the Iowa Legislature. In response, they inserted language in the health and human services budget to restore the ban on state funds for certain transgender care. This was done through the budgeting process, not the regular bill-writing process.
Rejecting pleas from transgender Iowans and their allies, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the bill with that provision intact. Weeks later, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of two Iowans seeking surgery to correct their gender dysphoria.
Iowa’s law is not wrong simply because California politicians object to it; it’s wrong because it discriminates against vulnerable Iowans, preventing them from living their best lives.
The travel ban provides a reminder that people outside our borders are watching. At a time when Iowa leaders are vying to polish our national image and attract new residents, politicians are doing their best to make sure we look like small-minded bigots.
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