In the wake of a controversial Texas bill allowing publicly funded adoption and foster care agencies to deny the placement of children with gay couples, California responded with a 2017 ban on state-funded business travel to the state.
After attempting to challenge that ban at the highest level, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a motion to hear the Texas lawsuit.
“Sincerely held religious beliefs”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that California’s response was an effort “to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption providers.”
At issue is HB 3859, known as the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” which was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law in 2017.
The legislation provided a legal shield for faith-based child welfare providers who were given the option to deny placing children in families outside of specific religious beliefs.
Texas Values described the law as protecting such providers from punishment for acting in accordance with “sincerely held religious beliefs, including beliefs that life begins at conception and that marriage is between one man and one woman.”
As a result of the law’s mandate, Texas “cannot deny an application, decline a contract, decline to issue a license, or terminate a child welfare provider” based on decisions made in accordance with those religious beliefs, the description continued.
“Send all of us several steps back”
California cited discrimination against the LGBT community in adopting its travel ban and similarly halted state-funded business trips to several other states, as explained by Xavier Becerra, who served as California’s attorney general at the time.
“Discriminatory laws in any part of our country send all of us several steps back,” he said. “That’s why when California said we would not tolerate discrimination against LGBTQ members of our community, we meant it.”
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas argued that the suit deserved to be heard in the nation’s highest court, but Paxton’s legal challenge was nevertheless rejected on Monday, leaving Texas with little or no legal recourse.
Aside from the revelation that two justices would have moved to hear the suit, no additional reason was provided regarding the Supreme Court’s decision to reject the case.
Without a forum to even present the case before the high court, California’s travel ban could set a precedent for additional action against states with laws interpreted as discriminatory — particularly as a number of Republican-led states have recently considered or passed bills aimed at limiting participation on sports teams by transgender athletes.