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California, West Virginia AGs exchange words over law

CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey criticized a new California policy banning state employee travel to the Mountain State over the ban on transgender women playing women’s sports in public schools and higher education.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that state-funded travel by California government employees would be restricted for five states, including West Virginia.

The move comes as West Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota passed legislation viewed as restrictive to the LGBTQ community. California Assembly Bill 1887, enacted in 2016, requires the state “to take action to avoid supporting or financing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.” According to the California Attorney General’s Office, 12 other states are on the prohibited travel list.

“Assembly Bill 1887 is about aligning our dollars with our values,” Bonta said in a statement Monday. “When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, California law requires our office to take action. These new additions to the state-funded travel restrictions list are about exactly that.”

Bonta singled out West Virginia for passage of House Bill 3293, relating to transgender student participation in interscholastic athletic events. The West Virginia Legislature passed the bill on April 9, with Gov. Jim Justice signing the bill on April 28. The bill goes into effect July 8.

In a news release Tuesday, Morrisey accused Bonta and California of “economic coercion” in trying to use the state travel restriction to incentive West Virginia to abandon HB 3293.

“States should not penalize other states because of policy differences,” Morrisey said. “The economic coercion demonstrated by California is an affront to the dignity of other co-sovereign states and amounts to legislating across state borders in an effort to force the radical world view of large states onto those living elsewhere.”

HB 3293 is being challenged in federal court by an 11-year-old transgender girl who had intended to try out for her middle school’s cross-country team next year. HB 3293 requires student-athletes in middle school, high school or college to participate in sports that match their biological sex based on the student’s sex at the time of their birth.

The Attorney General’s Office filed as a defendant-intervenor in the lawsuit last week. The office argued that HB 3293 preserves federal Title IX protections, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities. Opponents of HB 3293, including the U.S. Department of Justice, argue that HB 3293 violates Title X by discriminating against transgender girls and women.

“Federalism works best when individual states can pursue policies supported by their own constituents, and in West Virginia our office will defend the state’s efforts to protect the integrity of women’s sports,” Morrisey said. “Title IX opened many opportunities for girls and women across the Mountain State and beyond. This legislation preserves fair competition. It is simply wrong for other states to exert financial pressure in such a manner.”

As for how many California state employees travel to West Virginia for official business in a 12-month period, the California Attorney General’s Office couldn’t say.

“That’s not information our office collects,” according to an email response from the California Attorney General’s press office. “Under AB 1887, our role is to create and maintain the list of states subject to California’s state-funded travel restrictions…”

“West Virginia is a beautiful state, and I continually urge everyone — in California and elsewhere — to experience its magnificent hills, streams and adventure, as well as its loving people,” Morrisey said.

Other states on California’s prohibited travel list include Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.

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