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California May Become “Sanctuary” for People Fleeing Texas and Florida

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State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, announces legislation to provide refuge to out-of-state transgender kids and their parents at the Capitol on March 17, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

By Emily Hoeven

California’s Democratic leaders have a message for Texans and Floridians opposed to their states’ stances on abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control: You’re more than welcome in the Golden State.

The latest offering came from Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who on Thursday announced forthcoming legislation that would “protect and provide refuge for transgender kids and their parents if they flee to California” from states such as Texas or Idaho, which have advanced measures to investigate or criminalize parents seeking gender-affirming care for their trans kids.

Wiener’s bill would:

  • Prevent California courts from enforcing any out-of-state court rulings that deny parents custody for allowing their trans kids to get gender-affirming care
  • Block California agencies from complying with any out-of-state subpoenas seeking information about people who come to the Golden State for gender-affirming care
  • Declare as the lowest priority for California law enforcement any out-of-state criminal arrest warrant linked to someone receiving gender-affirming care

Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, name-checked Disney, whose staff members are staging walkouts over the corporation’s refusal to publicly condemn Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill that would ban teaching kids in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”

Newsom tweeted: “Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California — the state that actually represents the values of your workers.”

The governor has maintained a relentless focus on Texas and Florida, slamming both in this month’s State of the State speech and a flurry of recent tweets. He’s also sponsoring a gun control bill modeled on Texas’ controversial abortion ban and has called on California to be a “sanctuary” for out-of-state patients seeking abortions.

Democratic lawmakers have answered with a package of reproductive health care legislation, including a bill that would create a fund — filled with both state and philanthropic money — to help low-income Californians and out-of-state women access abortions.

The bill language, released Wednesday night, says the fund would help cover abortion patients’ airfare, lodging, ground transportation, gas money, meals, child care, doula support and translation services.

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat and bill co-author: This proposal “sends a clear message to the rest of the nation: We are fully committed to ensuring that California women and those who may seek refuge here have access to all reproductive services, including abortion.”

On Thursday, the Assembly passed a bill that would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortions and abortion-related services. It now faces a procedural vote in the Senate before heading to Newsom’s desk.

By framing California as a “refuge” and “sanctuary” for people who want to “flee” Texas and Florida, elected officials may be attempting to counter the narrative that Californians are fleeing to red states in search of lower taxes and more affordable homes.

Intensifying the rivalry: Population growth trends that saw California lose a congressional seat for the first time in history, while Texas gained two and Florida added one.


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