TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office fired back this week after Florida was added to a list of places targeted by California because of laws involving LGBTQ people.
California said it is halting state-funded travel to Florida and four other states because of what it considers discriminatory laws.
“Congratulations to California for somehow managing to create a new way to politicize its bureaucracy,” Christina Pushaw, a DeSantis spokeswoman, said after Florida was added to California’s travel-ban list — now at 17 states.
California lawmakers created the list in 2016. Under it, California state agencies are prohibited from state-funded travel to states with laws allowing discrimination “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.”
Florida, Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia were added to the list Monday, joining Texas, Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Kentucky, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee.
“Make no mistake: We’re in the midst of an unprecedented wave of bigotry and discrimination in this country — and the state of California is not going to support it,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement.
DeSantis last month signed into law a measure that bans transgender females from participating on girls’ and women’s high-school and college sports teams. A 13-year-old transgender girl from Broward County and her parents, backed by the group Human Rights Campaign, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging the law.
But DeSantis and Republican lawmakers have defended the law, saying it is aimed at preventing male athletes from having a competitive edge over females.
“The bill Governor DeSantis signed is not discriminatory; in fact, it’s the opposite — the legislation ensures that women’s sports remain fair,” Pushaw said. “On the contrary, allowing biological males to compete in women’s sports is discriminatory, because it puts girls and women at a disadvantage based on immutable, innate characteristics. It is disappointing that the politicians calling the shots in Sacramento are not willing to stand up for women and girls in California.”
The day after the transgender athlete bill was signed, DeSantis slashed $900,000 for programs that serve LGBTQ people in Central Florida, including a program that provides mental health services to survivors and family members of victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.
By Jim Turner and Ryan Dailey, News Service of Florida