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AG Derek Schmidt to U.S. Supreme Court: California travel ban is unconstitutional, Texas lawsuit should proceed

Release Date: Apr 13, 2020

TOPEKA – (April 13, 2020) – A California law banning state-funded travel to Kansas and 10 other states violates the U.S. Constitution so a Texas lawsuit challenging the ban should proceed, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt told the U.S. Supreme Court in a legal brief filed today.

“[T]his case is critical to preserving the federalism principles on which our nation was built,” Schmidt and a bipartisan group of 18 other attorneys general wrote in their brief. “Without a ruling from this Court, California and other States will be emboldened to ramp up pressure on their fellow States’ internal affairs. Efforts like these are especially troubling where, as here, they involve economic sanctions akin to those used by warring nations.”

The Texas lawsuit challenges a 2016 California law banning state-funded travel to other states that have laws the California attorney general deems discriminatory. The ban prevents California agencies, public universities and boards from funding work-related trips to those states. California bans state-funded travel to Kansas because California objects to a 2016 law Kansas enacted to prevent public colleges and universities from denying funds or campus resources to religious groups that require members to adhere to the group’s religious tenets.

“In short, the Court should grant Texas’s motion because unless their laws run afoul of the Constitution, the people of … Kansas … deserve to have sensitive issues of religious freedom resolved by the legislators who answer to them —not to the people of a State hundreds of miles away,” the brief argues.

The brief also supports Texas’ argument that California’s ban violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause and First and Fourteenth Amendments. The attorneys general noted that in addition to the constitutional questions, whether the Court allows the Texas lawsuit to proceed may have significant economic consequences for the states targeted by the ban and the nation as a whole, particularly if other states retaliate in kind against California.

The California travel ban at issue in this case has nothing to do with public health issues or the current COVID-19 emergency.

The case is Texas v. California, No. 153. A copy of the brief filed today is available at https://bit.ly/3b9H8YE.

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