Politics & Government

California bans state funded travel to SC over ‘discrimination’ against foster parents

South Carolina State House. 1/9/19
South Carolina State House. 1/9/19 tglantz@thestate.com

California officials have decided to bar state sponsored travel to South Carolina in protest a move that could allow child foster care agencies to discriminate against prospective parents on a religious basis.

The ban sent South Carolina officials into action Tuesday afternoon after it was tweeted out by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

“En route to (Emergency Management Division) headquarters to figure out if the governor needs to declare a state of emergency,” spokesman for Gov. Henry McMaster Brian Symmes tweeted. “How will South Carolina recover?”

The ban will begin on April 15, and will prohibit state dollars from being used on travel to the Palmetto State, according to a statement from Becerra’s office. The ban is a part of a 2017 piece of California legislation, which prohibits state-funded travel to states with laws authorizing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

“The State of South Carolina recently enacted a measure that sanctions discrimination against families in the placement of children in need of homes. The State of California stands strongly against any form of discrimination” Becerra said in his statement.

California officials are taking issue with a federal waiver granted by President Donald Trump’s administration that would allow the state to license foster programs that allow religious restrictions on possible client families. The waiver was initially sought by McMaster, who said it would allow those agencies to continue to operate without abandoning their religious beliefs.

“By granting this waiver, President Trump ... (has) shown the entire world that, as Americans, our fundamental right to practice religion, regardless of our faith, will not be in jeopardy under this administration,” McMaster said in a statement when the order came down.

As of January, 11 foster agencies with religious affiliations were licensed in South Carolina.

“If Attorney General Becerra was interested in the truth, he would know this is all about protecting South Carolinians’ religious freedom – regardless of their faith,” Symmes said. “While he tries to score cheap political points, we’ll be more than happy to continue recruiting businesses that are leaving overregulated, high tax states like California to come to South Carolina and create opportunities for our people.”

Opponents have argued that the law allows for discrimination, and the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, labeled South Carolina a “high priority” state based on the waiver.

Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.