By JOHN KANELIS
I am inclined as a general rule to oppose Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s world view on most matters.
However, on the issue of seeking to remove one state’s non-essential travel ban to Texas because of our state’s strong stand in favor of “religious liberty,” I believe he is onto something.
What constitutes “essential travel”? I suppose one example would be in the event of a natural disaster emergency, in which firefighters or other first responders travel from California to Texas to lend aid.
Here’s the issue: In 2017, Texas legislators enacted a law that, among other things, allows foster-care agencies to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children. California responded by banning non-essential publicly funded travel from California to Texas, citing what California Attorney General Xavier Becerra called a discriminatory policy against gay Americans. It falls under the religious liberty doctrine, of which Paxton has become an aggressive advocate.
At one level, Becerra has a point. I don’t like the Texas law either. I believe – on this point – that gay couples are fully capable of being loving parents to children who need a home. As one who believes homosexuality is a matter of genetics rather than upbringing or of choice, the Texas law looks to me to be an overreach.
However, so is the California response to this state enacting a law that comports with its residents’ generally conservative world view.
Paxton has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene on Texas’ behalf. He is asking the highest court in the land to overturn the California travel ban, saying that California is trying to police how other states conduct their affairs.
“California is attempting to punish Texans for respecting the right of conscience for foster care and adoption workers,” Paxton said.
As the Texas Tribune reports, this latest salvo is just the latest in a long-running feud between the states, with California and Texas being the country’s top Democratic and Republican strongholds, respectively. Do you remember how former Gov. Rick Perry would venture to California to lure businesses from that state to Texas? Critics of that effort – and I was one of them – called it “job poaching.”
Paxton – who is in the midst of another fight involving his own indictment for securities fraud – has now joined the battle.
Texas is one of 11 states that have received travel bans from California, which to Paxton’s eyes is acting like a state run by busy-bodies. One of those states, Oklahoma, responded by banning non-essential travel to California from Oklahoma. I suppose Texas could respond accordingly.
Paxton is likely to have a friendly audience if the high court decides to take up the case. It has a solid conservative majority. Yes, it’s only 5-4 at the moment, but the five conservative justices – with the possible exception of Chief Justice John Roberts – are inclined to stand solidly behind GOP policymakers’ point of view.
I will say that I think Paxton makes a solid argument that California need not intrude into the affairs of other states governed by politicians who don’t hue to that state’s political leaning.
John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.
Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.