The U.S. Supreme Court won’t hear a challenge to California’s ban on state-funded travel to Texas because of the latter state’s anti-LGBTQ+ adoption law.
California banned nonessential state-funded travel to the Lone Star State in 2017 after Texas passed a law allowing adoption and foster care agencies to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people and anyone else who offends their religious beliefs without losing state contracts or facing other consequences. A California law passed in 2016 allows the state to bar its employees from making nonessential taxpayer-funded trips to states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws and add states to the list as needed. Ten other states besides Texas are under the ban.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, long known for his anti-LGBTQ+ activism, sought to have the California law declared unconstitutional. “California’s travel ban is an affront to the sovereignty of Texas — as well as the ten other States that California has blacklisted,” says a brief Texas filed with the Supreme Court. The brief also argued that the California ban shows “religious animus” toward Texas.
While the Supreme Court usually hears only cases that have come up from lower courts on appeal, the U.S. Constitution allows for disputes between states to be filed directly with the high court, so that’s what Texas did. But Monday the justices said they would not hear Texas’s case. The Supreme Court doesn’t generally provide a reason for turning down cases, and it didn’t in this instance. However, two ultraconservative justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, said they favored taking the case.
“When they entered the Union, these two behemoths [California and Texas] relinquished the full measure of sovereign power that they once possessed, but they acquired the right to have their disputes with other States adjudicated by the Nation’s highest court,” Alito wrote. “The Court now denies Texas that right. It will not even permit the filing of Texas’s bill of complaint.”
Thomas and Alito are longtime opponents of LGBTQ+ rights. Last fall both called for the overturning of the high court’s 2015 marriage equality decision, Obergefell v. Hodges.
Texas and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston have also filed a lawsuit against the federal government over the denial of Health and Human Services funds to adoption and foster care agencies that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Filed in 2019, the suit is pending in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Donald Trump’s administration later ceased enforcing this policy and put out a new rule allowing federal funds to go to agencies that discriminate, but President Joe Biden’s administration has blocked the rule and upheld the nondiscrimination policy.