The attorney general of California recently announced that state employees would be prohibited from traveling to Montana due to our state’s discrimination against LGBTQ people. Indulging in the proud Montana tradition of mocking California, some politicians and activists had a good laugh about the ban. Sen. Steve Daines tweeted a snarky rejoinder, Republican radio host Aaron Flint had a good laugh, and plenty of other right-wing activists tried to get in dunks on Twitter.
Discrimination is no joke. Neither is the economic impact when people decide to take their travel dollars elsewhere. This year, the Montana Legislature passed — and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed — laws to legalize discrimination, invade the privacy of LGBTQ Montanans, micromanage family health care decisions, and mandate government inspection of children’s genitals. This culture war against our friends, family and neighbor has literal life or death consequences.
This agenda of discrimination also threatens our economy. According to the University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research, out of state visitors spend $3.8 billion a year, fueling an economic ripple effect in every county. At least 12% of these travelers are here on business trips. When companies and government agencies start curtailing business trips to Montana because of our Legislature’s hate agenda, we are all going to suffer. Gov. Gianforte promised us a Montana comeback, but all he has given us is a Montana roadblock.