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State and local leaders react to California banning state-funded travel to Ohio over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation concerns

"That bill was not intended in any way to discriminate against anyone. It’s the last thing we want to do," says Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

CLEVELAND — California has announced it is banning state-funded travel to Ohio. California officials say the ban is the direct result of a clause passed in Ohio’s state budget that allows medical providers to refuse treatment based on their moral or religious beliefs.

RELATED: California bans state-funded travel to Ohio over anti-LGBTQ+ legislation concerns

California’s Attorney General says the new restrictions on state-funded travel are required by a bill passed by the state in 2016. In a statement, Rob Bonta said that bill requires that - “When states discriminate against LGBTQ+ Americans, the California Department of Justice must act.” 

California has done the same to 17 other states. 

During a visit to Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland on Tuesday, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine refuted discrimination claims when asked about the California decision by 3News.

"That bill was not intended in any way to discriminate against anyone. It’s the last thing we want to do. The day I took office, we signed a number of executive orders banning discrimination. So that’s not what we’re all about. What we’re all about is opportunity. No matter what your background is, no matter who you are, we want you to have opportunity in the state of Ohio. California can do what California does. I can’t control that," DeWine said. 

But concerns are growing. 

Destination Cleveland president and CEO David Gilbert told 3News in a statement: “The California ban, which is in response to the “Medical Practitioner Conscience” clause, threatens Destination Cleveland’s ability to attract the numerous national association-sponsored meetings, conventions, and events whose attendees include employees of state agencies, departments, boards, or commissions. When event attendees are financially prohibited from visiting a state, meeting planners will bypass Cleveland as an event host.”  

When asked about concerns and a response to California’s ban, DeWine did not seem too worried.

"They’re talking about their state employees not being able to come to Ohio. It probably doesn’t happen too often anyway," he said. "I’m not concerned about that. California has a right to do what they want to do. But we certainly had no intention to discriminate against anyone."

RELATED: Gov. Mike DeWine tours Cuyahoga Community College's technology center in Cleveland

While Destination Cleveland says they haven’t yet received any cancelations, they have had clients express concerns. California’s ban would go in effect at the end of the month.

Below is the full statement from Destination Cleveland president and CEO David Gilbert:

"In our work to attract people to and improve perceptions of Cleveland, Destination Cleveland pursues and hosts meetings, conventions and other events that bring thousands of attendees and tens of millions of dollars of economic benefit to the city, county, region and state each year. After the passage of the “Medical Practitioner Conscience” clause in the state budget bill this summer, we are beginning to see a cascading effect on the travel and tourism industry – one that will further challenge the region’s ability to recover from the significant economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, the state of California’s decision to ban state-funded travel to Ohio is likely to have significant impact on our travel and tourism industry. The California ban, which is in response to the “Medical Practitioner Conscience” clause, threatens Destination Cleveland’s ability to attract the numerous national association-sponsored meetings, conventions and events whose attendees include employees of state agencies, departments, boards, or commissions. When event attendees are financially prohibited from visiting a state, meeting planners will bypass Cleveland as an event host. 

 Additionally, the new law hurts Destination Cleveland’s narrative changing efforts as it creates a perception of the entire state being unwelcoming and discriminatory to the LGBTQ community."