The governor left town last week as state lawmakers dispersed for a month-long summer break, but unlike previous trips, he did not announce his whereabouts first. News of the governor’s trips to Montana, first reported by CalMatters, immediately drew backlash from critics.
Newsom broke no laws, even though he traveled with a security detail, according to a California Highway Patrol official, and a spokesperson for Newsom said the governor paid for the trip to visit his family and noted that the ban did not apply to personal travel. But the holidays present an unfortunate optic for a liberal ember.
The governor has many reasons for going to Montana: his in-laws live there, and it’s where he and first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom were married. The two went so far as to name their eldest daughter “Montana.”
It’s a state law, signed in 2016 by former Governor Jerry Brown, that prohibits state-funded travel in the states. with laws that California finds discriminatory based on sexual orientation or gender. Today, this list includes 22 states with a combined population of approximately 135 million people. The California Department of Justice, not the governor’s office, determines the list.
Montana got there last year after enacting a pair of laws banning transgender students from joining school teams that match their gender identity and allowing companies to seek exemptions from certain laws. under the auspices of religious freedom, which LGBTQ advocates say could open the door to discrimination.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement at the time that Montana’s measures were part “of a recent and dangerous wave of discriminatory new bills enacted in states across the country.”
Bonta added five states to the banned list that day. Florida was another.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said Wednesday that the reports so far showed a “lack of understanding toward state policy” and confused Newsom’s personal vacation with banned state-funded trips.
“Connecting the two is irresponsible and implies that there is something untoward,” Erin Mellon, the governor’s director of communications, said in an email.
“This is a personal trip to visit family who lives out of state. Our role is not to regulate where people have family or where they vacation. We don’t Nor will we persecute for visiting their families, nor will the press.
When asked if the governor traveled with a state security detail, Mellon said she could not comment due to security concerns. In the past, governors have typically traveled with California Highway Patrol officers acting as bodyguards.
The state’s travel ban would not apply to state-funded security guards, a CHP representative said, citing an exception in the law for “the protection of public health, welfare or Security” and a separate section of code allowing law enforcement to provide for the physical security of elected officials.