- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 3, 2018

Oklahomans weren’t exactly crying in their sweet tea after learning that their state has been added to California’s blacklist on state-sponsored travel.

“There appears to be more and more Californians sharing our values as we are seeing more Californians move to Oklahoma,” said Michael McNutt, spokesman for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, in a statement. “With our state’s economy being as strong as it is, we won’t miss a few Californians traveling on state business showing up in our state.”

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra added Oklahoma to the growing tally of banned states Friday in response to a law signed by the Republican Fallin in May that protects religious-based adoption agencies from discrimination lawsuits.

Mr. Becerra, a Democrat, said the Oklahoma measure, known as SB 1140, violated California’s 2016 law banning state-funded travel to states with laws viewed as discriminatory against gay and transgender people.

“The law enacted in Oklahoma allows discrimination against LGBTQ children and aspiring LGBTQ parents who must navigate the adoption process,” said Mr. Becerra in a statement. “California taxpayers are taking a stand against bigotry and in support of those who would be harmed by this prejudiced policy.”

His announcement means California will no longer fund travel to nine states: Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, in addition to Oklahoma, with exceptions for legal and criminal matters.

Mr. McNutt took issue with the attorney general’s characterization of Oklahoma law.

“Oklahoma has not banned adoptions to gays and others,” Mr. McNutt said. “Couples whose views differ from faith-based adoption agencies can go to a number of agencies willing to serve everyone who meets the Oklahoma Department of Human Services criteria for being a foster or adoptive person.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter accused California lawmakers of engaging in “political games.”

“This action substitutes rhetoric for responsible adoption policy,” Mr. Hunter said in a statement. “Oklahoma puts the interests of children ahead of political games. It is utterly undeniable that our state, like many others, needs more participants in the foster and adoption systems — not less.”

He said the Oklahoma law encourages participation by “barring the type of discrimination we have seen in various parts of the country, like Massachusetts, where religious organizations like Catholic Charities have been excluded from the adoption field.”

California Assemblyman Matthew Harper also criticized the latest ban, saying the policy has made life more difficult for students at public universities while failing to make a dent in other state laws.

“The travel ban has done nothing to change the policies of other states,” said the Republican Harper in a Saturday post. “The real victims of this ban are the college students who have missed out on once-in-a-lifetime educational opportunities, award ceremonies, and athletic competitions.”

Officials at the University of California and California State University have said they will not schedule games but will continue to attend marquee events in banned states, although it’s unclear whether such an exception runs afoul of the California law.

Mr. Harper asked the attorney general’s office in February for an opinion on the legality of allowing teams to attend out-of-state sporting events in banned states.

The UCLA football team is scheduled to visit the University of Oklahoma for a much-anticipated game on Sept. 8.

“AB 1887 was enacted to ensure our taxpayer dollars do not fund bigotry — no exceptions,” said Assemblyman Evan Low, who sponsored the 2016 bill, in a Friday statement. “California is a state of inclusion and has long stood up against discrimination in any form, within our borders and beyond.”

After Tennessee landed on the blacklist, the state legislature approved a joint resolution blasting California for fueling “economic warfare” between the states.

Tennessee lawmakers noted that their state hasn’t retaliated with a ban of its own even though they disapprove of California’s “exorbitant taxes, spiraling budget deficits, runaway social welfare programs, and rampant illegal immigration.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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