In a significant legislative move, the California state Assembly voted 64-12 in favor of repealing the 2016 law that banned publicly funded travel to 26 states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The state Senate also showed strong support with a 31-6 vote in favor of the repeal. Now, the decision rests with Governor Gavin Newsom (D), who has until October 14 to determine whether to sign the repeal into law.
This repeal, officially known as Senate Bill 447, introduces a novel approach by creating the BRIDGE Project, which stands for “Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality.” The project aims to replace the travel ban with a proactive strategy, establishing a fund to promote LGBTQ+-inclusive campaigns in the previously restricted states. This initiative’s primary focus is to create non-partisan, inclusive messaging, combat discrimination, and foster a sense of inclusion and belonging within the LGBTQ+ community. The envisioned messaging will work to raise public awareness and advocate for civil rights and antidiscrimination through education, advertising, and marketing efforts.
The original travel ban came into effect in 2016 following North Carolina’s controversial law that restricted restroom access for transgender individuals. Over the years, this ban expanded to include 26 states, inadvertently affecting California government workers, university professors, and elected officials, hampering their ability to conduct essential out-of-state business. However, the repeal’s proponents argue that the ban is no longer an effective means of opposing the increasing wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
State Senator Toni Atkins (D), the primary sponsor of the repeal and the first openly queer legislator to serve as Senate president, believes that it’s time for a more nuanced approach. She emphasized the need for messaging that resonates with people across the nation, fostering an environment of peace and inclusivity.
Rick Zbur (D), a gay state Assemblymember who previously served as the executive director of the state LGBTQ+ advocacy group Equality California, pointed out the unintended consequences of the travel ban. He argued that it had inadvertently isolated California’s services and citizens when the state should be leading the nation in ensuring inclusivity and freedom.
While the original travel ban received criticism as a political gesture, the BRIDGE Project offers a proactive and inclusive strategy to positively impact LGBTQ+ communities in states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. With this repeal, California aims to shift its focus from isolation to engagement and education, advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and inclusivity across the nation.