Louisville has already started to see an economic impact due to California’s decision to forbid state-funded travel to Kentucky, Mayor Greg Fischer said Wednesday evening.
In a tweet Wednesday, Fischer said an unnamed convention is leaving the city due to California’s ban.
“We are very concerned about others,” the mayor added on Facebook. “… Tourism/conventions are a key driver of our economy.”
The Golden State’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, announced last week that Kentucky and three other states were among the places where state employee travel is restricted based on legislation that has been criticized as discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community.
Fischer spokesman Chris Poynter declined to elaborate on what convention is abandoning Louisville or the exact dollar figure impact.
In addition, the ban could have effects on future scheduling for the University of Louisville or University of Kentucky athletic events. With public universities being funded by the state of California, their teams might need to fix future schedules if they adhere to the travel ban.
Senior Associate Athletic Director for Media Relations Kenny Klein declined to comment on how the ban would affect future University of Louisville games or schedules.
Fischer asked Becerra to consider exempting Louisville from the ban in a letter this past weekend. The mayor will join local business and tourism leaders on Thursday to discuss the impact further.
The law in question was Senate Bill 17, which conservative proponents said bolsters Kentucky students’ constitutional right to express religious and political views in public schools and universities. It also prohibits school officials from regulating how those student groups select members and other internal decisions.
Gay rights groups and other liberal critics have assailed the law as one that permits discrimination of LGBTQ students.
A spokeswoman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin ripped the travel ban saying, “the very same West Coast liberals who rail against the president’s executive order, that protects our nation from foreign terrorists, have now contrived their own travel ban aimed at punishing states who don’t fall in lockstep with their far-left political ideology.”
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said during a press conference Wednesday that Becerra should give his travel ban a second look. He also said the Republican-controlled legislature should pay attention to the economic consequences of certain measures.
“But what we have to understand is if this super-majority’s number one goal is job growth, when they pass these types of social legislation that there are going to be impacts,” Beshear said.
Fischer has tried to separate Louisville from the rest of the state by touting the city’s record as a diverse and welcoming community. Louisville, for instance, obtained a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s index.
It also was one of the first cities in the South to adopt a comprehensive Fairness law barring discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
“It is my belief that cities like ours should be rewarded for an inclusive behavior, not penalized; a waiver would highlight our inclusivity and encourage other cities to follow accordingly,” Fischer said in a letter to Becerra.
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray also asked for his city to be exempt from the travel ban on Tuesday. He said in a letter posted to Twitter that Lexington’s reputation as a welcoming community is “well-known nationwide.”
Reporter Phillip M. Bailey can be reached at 502-582-4475 or firstname.lastname@example.org