New California law prevents state agencies from traveling to certain states

Daniel Ho/File

Cal Athletics is now feeling the effects of a California law that prohibits state-funded travel to other states with laws deemed discriminatory by the California attorney general.

On Feb. 3, the Lawrence Journal-World published an article reporting that the Cal and the University of Kansas basketball teams had been in the early stages of organizing a home-and-home series. The talks were cut off because of California Assembly Bill 1887 — signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in September — which took effect Jan. 1.

AB 1887 reads that, along with other state agencies, “the Board of Regents of the University of California … shall not … Approve a request for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to a state that, after June 26, 2015, has enacted a law that voids or repeals, or has the effect of voiding or repealing, existing state or local protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.”

The California attorney general has ruled that this law is applicable to the state of Kansas. Kansas passed Senate Bill 175 in March 2016. The bill states that any post-secondary educational institution cannot punish a religious student association for failing to comply with policies that contradict their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“We will remain in compliance with the law and cannot predict any changes that the legislature or governor may enact,” Cal Athletics said in a statement.

Many — including Equality Kansas, a group that advocates LGBT rights — have argued that the implication of Kansas’ SB 175 is that religious student groups can bar LGBT students from joining them based solely on the fact that they identify as LGBT. SB 175 is viewed as discriminatory under AB 1887.

There are a number of other laws that appear to violate California’s AB 1887, including Kansas House Bill 2453, which states that no government agency can require religious institutions to, among other things, “treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid” if it violates that groups firmly held religious beliefs.

Although the effects of this California law on collegiate athletics are first manifesting between California and Kansas, a number of other states are also banned from travel — Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee.

While Cal is the first athletic program dealing with AB 1887-related scheduling difficulties publicly, it is likely that other programs have altered their future schedules behind closed doors, as the law pertains to every public academic institution in California. AB 1887 will also likely have far-reaching implications for academic and political events, as well as relationships between California and the four named states.

The talks between Cal and Kansas, originally reported by the LJW, were also reported in The Mercury News and other news sources. The Cal men’s basketball program, however, made no prior indication of its plans for a game against Kansas.

“We do regularly engage in discussions on scheduling opportunities with high-profile programs throughout the year,” Cal Athletics said in a statement.

Contractual obligations with any of the four states that were made prior to the enactment of AB 1887 will not be affected by the travel ban, meaning football games previously planned between the Bears and schools in North Carolina and Mississippi will remain on the schedule.

“Cal Athletics has a long history of commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in both participation and employment in all of our daily activities and events,” Cal Athletics said in a statement. “Supporting a welcoming environment is an essential part of the fabric of our department as we strive to promote the principles of tolerance and respect for all.”

Sophie Goethals is the assistant sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]