By Gregg Re
Published September 16, 2019
California announced last week that it has added Iowa to the list of states on its ever-expanding "travel ban" list because of that state's new prohibition against funding gender-transition surgeries under Medicaid.
The announcement by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra means that as of Oct. 4, California will no longer offer taxpayer-funded trips to Iowa for any public employee or student at a state-run university.
Becerra's authority came from a 2016 California law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown that bars state-funded travel to other states that undercut LGBT rights. The blacklist already included Alabama, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Conservatives have called the law ineffective, inconveniencing, possibly unconstitutional and hypocritical. The state's sports teams have turned to private funding to get around the restrictions, according to The Los Angeles Times.
“The Iowa Legislature has reversed course on what was settled law under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, repealing protections for those seeking gender-affirming health care,” Becerra said in a statement. “California has taken an unambiguous stand against discrimination and government actions that would enable it."
The brouhaha began after the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in March that taxpayers could be forced to pay for gender reassignment surgery. Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a law effectively overriding that ruling two months later.
"This narrow provision simply clarifies that Iowa’s Civil Rights Act does not require taxpayer dollars to pay for sex reassignment and other similar surgeries," Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett said in a statement at the time. "This returns us to what had been the state’s position for years."
At the federal level, the Trump administration has rolled back the Obama-era determination that sex-based discrimination prohibitions under existing law include protections for gender identity.
The Health and Human Services Department, in May, angered progressive advocates with rules that both allowed doctors not to perform certain operations and stated that "gender identity" was not protected under sex discrimination law in health care.
"Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect," said Roger Severino, who heads the HHS Office for Civil Rights. "We intend to fully enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination."
Asked about the charge that the administration has opened the door to discrimination against transgender people seeking needed medical care of any type, Severino responded, "I don't want to see that happen."
Fox News' Sam Dorman contributed to this report.