California’s new travel ban against Tennessee — and other conservative states — could force dozens of basketball teams from California’s public colleges and universities to miss the annual NCAA “March Madness” Tournament.
California’s law, AB 1887, provides that state institutions shall not:
Require any of its employees, officers, or members to 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, gender identity, or gender expression or has enacted a law that authorizes or requires discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, including any law that creates an exemption to antidiscrimination laws in order to permit discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
There are seven exemptions to the prohibition, none of which include university student travel for the purposes of participating in a sporting activity.
The law could also have economic consequences for California.
According to an article in the Tennessean, Tennessee lawmakers fired back at California lawmakers with a symbolic resolution warning of retaliation, calling the travel ban “misguided and ill-conceived.”
The California ban, enacted in 2016, was a reaction to the Tennessee legislature’s passage of a law that allows mental health counselors and therapists to refuse to treat patients based on religious objections or personal beliefs.
According to an NPR report, gay rights activists believe the law may be used to deny services to gay, lesbian and transgender clients.
The Tennessean noted at the time that Tennessee State Representative Bill Dunn (R-Knoxville) raised the point that California public university sports teams would be barred by their state’s ban from competing in Tennessee, charging the California state legislature of using students for political blackmail.
“The March Madness basketball tournament comes to Memphis this year via the South Regional,” Dunn told the Tennessean, “It is ridiculous to keep students from competing based on politics.”
Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman.