The Golden State is symbolically showcasing its commitment to tolerance and inclusion… by cutting off state funds for travel (including for college athletic competitions) to states that the legislature deems insufficiently socially liberal. Governing magazine reports:
California has banned state-funded travel to Kansas after determining that the Sunflower State is one of four in the nation with laws that it views as discriminatory toward gay people.
The policy could prevent public universities in California from scheduling sporting events with Kansas teams and raises the question of whether teams will travel to Wichita in 2018, when the city is scheduled to host two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. […]
Kansas is on the travel prohibition list because of a 2016 law that enabled college campus religious groups to require that members adhere to their religious beliefs and standards.
Just to be clear about the infraction that landed Kansas on the list: Some universities have “all-comers” policies for student group membership, meaning that no student can be excluded from any campus organization on account of his or her beliefs. Technically, this means that Democratic students could join the College Republicans, that Zionist students could join Students for Justice in Palestine, and so forth. But the biggest controversy (which led to the Supreme Court decision Christian Legal Society vs. Martinez) often has to do with Christian student associations that seek to require that all members subscribe to a Biblical view sexual morality—that is, that sex should take place only between married men and women. The Kansas state legislature wanted to ensure that the university didn’t enact an “all-comers” policy that would force student religious groups to violate their beliefs, so it passed a law stating that these groups can create their own criteria for membership.
In other words, this is not Jim Crow applied to the LGBT community. This is an eminently reasonable (if debatable) policy for how to balance religious freedom and gay rights. In fact, four out of nine Supreme Court justices ruled that such a policy is required at public universities to maintain freedom of association.
America’s federal system is intended to create a kind of insurance against polarization by allowing states to pursue different policies within our broad constitutional framework and still remain part of the same political unit. This system has needed major revisions, such as when Southern states used federalism as a defense of slavery and then Jim Crow. But as even the Left is discovering in the Age of Trump, allowing states a certain degree of latitude to experiment is critical to maintaining the American experiment in times of discord and distrust. If states start to try to create their own foreign policies, shutting out and delegitimizing states that opt to do things differently, then the whole architecture of federalism starts to break down.
It is ironic that the Golden State is taking such an aggressively anti-federalist position seeing as many of its own policies are on a collision course with those of the Trump administration and it will surely invoke states rights to try and defend them. But needless to say, California-type policies could go both ways; for example, red states could cut off state-funded travel with states that contain sanctuary cities. We do not want to go down this road.