Stitt bans state-funded travel to California
Gov. Kevin Stitt is giving California a taste of its own medicine.
Citing "Oklahoma's pro-life stance," Stitt on Thursday signed an executive order banning all non-essential state-funded travel to California. The move comes after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in October banned city-funded travel to 22 states, including Oklahoma, that city officials say have "restrictive abortion laws." The ban took effect Jan. 1. Stitt's executive order also comes almost two years after Golden State leaders banned state travel to Oklahoma because of a policy they consider discriminatory toward LGBT people.
In June 2018, California's attorney general announced the ban in response to legislation that former Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed allowing private adoption and foster agencies to deny placing children with same-sex couples on religious or moral grounds.
If California's elected officials don't want their state employees traveling to Oklahoma, Stitt said he's happy to return the favor and stand up for Oklahoma's anti-abortion policies.
“California and its elected officials over the past few years have banned travel to the State of Oklahoma in an effort to politically threaten and intimidate Oklahomans for their personal values," Stitt said in a statement. "Enough is enough."
The order includes an exemption for Department of Commerce staffers to travel to California to recruit businesses. It also includes exceptions for state athletic teams and support personnel to travel to California for games.
Stitt's order is nothing more than a diversion tactic, said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman, and Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City. Stitt is trying to distract Oklahomans from the state's poor education outcomes, a health care plan he's months behind on rolling out and his fight with the Oklahoma's Native American tribes over gaming compacts, they said in a joint statement.
"The governor’s latest decision to ban travel to California is nothing more than an attempt to distract from another recent bad decision the governor made, which was to alienate and attack our tribal nations and ask a federal court to shut down our state’s thriving tribal gaming industry," they said.
Stitt's office said the executive order was timed around the National March for Life, an annual anti-abortion rally which will be held Friday in Washington, D.C. President Donald Trump is scheduled to be the first U.S. president to attend.
Tamya Cox-Touré, the regional director of public policy and organizing for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said it's saddening when state leaders selectively choose which Oklahomans to defend.
"It is clear that anti-abortion politicians, emboldened by the Trump administration, will say and do anything to push their political agendas and threaten access to the sexual and reproductive health care we need and deserve," Cox-Touré said.