California: Home of the Unfree


“Join us in California where we still believe in freedom,” urged Gov. Newsom in a political ad to Floridians — never mind that he barred California state government workers from ever traveling to the Sunshine State.  And while freedom may be just another word for nothing left to lose said the great Janis Joplin, when applying Newsom’s baffling notion of freedom, the strange result is that the more we’re free, the more we lose.

When North Carolina enacted a law in 2016 that prevented transgender people from using restrooms that aligned with their new gender identity, California countered with AB 1887, a law that banned state-funded travel to states it believed to be discriminatory against LGBTQ+ people.  The goal of Sacramento’s progressives was to send a message to the rest of the country: “we do not tolerate discrimination in our state and beyond our borders.”  What began as a ban on four states in 2016 has now expanded to 22, making nearly half the nation off limits.

“This is part of the sort of weird California arrogance …. something that epitomizes and reflects what has become an insane political culture in the state,” said Joel Kotkin of Chapman University to FOX News’ William La Jeunesse (July 25, 2022).

Even the Los Angeles Times is advocating for its repeal: “It’s created a raft of bureaucratic work arounds inside state government …. without achieving demonstrable economic impact on the offending states. And it’s clearly not discouraging red states from passing discriminatory laws, since the list of prohibited states has grown….”

State officials and bureaucrats are not the only ones banned from visiting the 22 canceled states.  State university professors and scientists have complained that they can’t meet with their out-of-state colleagues to conduct research or attend conferences.

Sports team officials are also in a funk.  They can’t travel to any of the canceled states using taxpayer money.  Athletic recruiters have to book in hotels at neighboring states.  UCLA and Cal sports teams must now use private funds to play Pac-12 competitors in such banned states as Utah and Arizona.   And when UCLA officially joins the Big 10, it will face restrictions when playing in Ohio, Iowa, and Indiana – canceled states all. The irony, as La Jeunesse points out in his report: “So it’s okay to go to North Korea but not to North Carolina; China which bans same sex marriage — it’s okay, but Columbus and Cincinnati, no go.”

Recently, the travel ban became the source of hilarity nationwide when Newsom and his family vacationed in Montana with his state-funded security detail in tow.  Personal travel isn’t off-limits argued Newsom’s office.  But like his meal at the French Laundry, it was not a good look.

Feeling good may be easy when Newsom sings blue. But as Democratic strategists Steve Maviglio warns, “California’s laws are for California. As much as we like to impose our values on other states, it just doesn’t work that way.”

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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