Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Thursday two conventions scheduled to come to the state’s largest city in coming years have canceled after learning California has banned state-funded travel to Kentucky.
Karen Williams, president and CEO of the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the two conventions — one in 2018 and another in 2021 — have told Louisville they were canceling their contracts. The loss of those two conventions will cost the city about $2 million, Fischer and Williams said Thursday.
“That’s $2 million that would have covered the salaries of waiters, waitresses, hotel staff, museum workers and hundreds more people who work downtown but live all over this community,” Fischer said in a written release.
Williams did not name the groups that canceled but said both were based in Chicago, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.
Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLex, Fayette County’s tourism and convention bureau, said Lexington’s convention center has not had any conventions cancel.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced last week that California was restricting state employees from traveling to Kentucky, Alabama, Texas and South Dakota. The California Department of Justice said Kentucky’s SB 17, which Kentucky lawmakers approved earlier this year, allows student-run organizations in schools to discriminate against classmates.
In a letter dated Thursday, Becerra denied Lexington Mayor Jim Gray’s request that Lexington be excluded from the ban.
While he said he applauded Gray’s “commitment to ensuring Lexington is an inclusive city for all individuals,” Becerra said California’s law doesn’t provide for exemptions for “any political subdivisions with in a state that may not hold the same anti-LGBT views of its state legislature.”
WKYT obtained a copy of the letter Thursday night.
Fischer and Gray had sent letters to Becerra asking California to exempt Kentucky’s two largest cities from the travel ban. Both men have argued Louisville and Lexington have passed ordinances and have policies that protect the rights of gay and transgender people. The two cities also have the largest convention centers in the state.
A spokeswoman for Becerra has said that California’s top law enforcement officer has received the mayors’ requests and was reviewing them. It’s not clear if Becerra has the authority to exempt cities from the travel ban. California’s legislature last year voted to restrict state-funded travel to states with laws that allow businesses to deny services to gay and transgender people.
Unlike Gray and Fischer, Gov. Matt Bevin’s office reacted with disdain to California’s decision.
“It is fascinating that 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,” Woody Maglinger, Bevin’s press secretary, said in a written statement.