San Francisco a step closer to ending its travel ban

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday April 17, 2023
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San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman spoke Monday about his proposed legislation to repeal Chapter 12X of the city's administrative code. Photo: Screenshot via SFGovTV.
San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman spoke Monday about his proposed legislation to repeal Chapter 12X of the city's administrative code. Photo: Screenshot via SFGovTV.

San Francisco is a step closer to lifting its ban on city-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ bills now that a supervisors' committee has voted in support of doing away with the policy. Known as Chapter 12X, the policy also restricts using taxpayer dollars to cover the cost of city employee trips to states with restrictions on abortion access and voting.

The policy, first enacted in 2016, has also banned city agencies and departments from doing business with companies headquartered in the 30 states now on San Francisco's "no-fly list." Mayor London Breed, however, late last month signed into law a change to 12X that allowed for construction firms in those states to once again bid on public contracts in the city.

Now city leaders are moving to scrap the policy in its entirety. At its April 17 meeting, the supervisors' Rules Committee voted 2-1 in support of an ordinance to repeal 12X.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman is the lead author of it, with Supervisors Ahsha Safaí of District 11, Hillary Ronen of District 9, Catherine Stefani of District 2, and Board President Aaron Peskin of District 3 signed on as co-sponsors. Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, committee chair, signed on as a co-sponsor at the meeting. Safaí had authored the ordinance that ended the prohibition related to construction contracts.

As a rules committee member Safaí joined with Dorsey, to vote in support of Mandelman's 12X repeal ordinance. Voting against it was District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, who was among the four supervisors who had voted against Safaí's limited 12X repeal ordinance in March.

Walton said at the meeting that repealing 12X will lead to unintended consequences, particularly among minority-owned and small businesses. He said the board should have a plan in place before repealing 12X.

A majority of the Board of Supervisors is now expected to vote in support of repealing all of 12X at its April 25 meeting. It would need to be voted on a second time before being sent to Breed, who has said she will sign it into law.

During his presentation at the meeting, Mandelman reiterated how 12X has not worked as intended. He pledged to continue working with the local business enterprise community to ensure that minority-owned and small businesses can be competitive in the city contracting process.

He rejected another argument against repealing 12X: that it sends a message San Francisco is giving up on its commitment to diversity and the LGBTQ community.

Mandelman acknowledged the "terrible, terrible things" some states are doing in terms of proposing and passing laws prohibiting drag performances, restricting gender-affirming care for trans youth, as well as restricting reproductive rights after last year's U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (12X was amended to include states that restricted reproductive and voting rights.)

"Some feel it's waving a white flag — I don't," he said, adding that the best thing a progressive city like San Francisco can do is govern itself well and do things for vulnerable populations here, such as the trans community.

With lawmakers in other states continuing to pass anti-LGBTQ laws this year, and a major LGBTQ rights group in Florida issuing a travel warning last week for the Sunshine State due to lawmakers there repealing the rights of LGBTQ people, San Francisco LGBTQ advocates have called for city leaders to rethink their push to repeal 12X. In an interview with the Bay Area Reporter last week, and an April 11 post on his Facebook page, longtime LGBTQ advocate Brian Basinger had called for a pause in voting on Mandelman's ordinance so that more discussions about it could be held with community members.

"What we do not need is to throw in the towel right now without a meaningful plan to achieve the goal of countering these anti-gay, anti-women, and anti-people of color attacks," contended Basinger, a gay man who has long lobbied city officials regarding fiscal matters and other issues.

There was one person who spoke during public comment. David Pilpel said he agreed with Mandelman and Safaí in repealing 12X.

First enacted in 2016 to cover those states that passed discriminatory LGBTQ laws, the 12X policy was expanded in 2019 to include states that restricted abortion, and again in 2021 to include those with voter suppression laws. But with nearly two-thirds of the country now on San Francisco's banned list, critics have argued it has done nothing to promote liberal causes in other states.

Instead, they contend it has merely hit the city's bottom line by driving up the costs for various contracts because companies that could do the work less expensively are not bidding on them in the first place if they are located in a banned state. Repeal proponents have also complained it is hampering city officials' ability to promote the city's values because they can't travel to various conferences and other events in the 30 states.

California also has a law banning most taxpayer-funded travel to states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ laws over the last eight years but does not ban contracts with companies in those states. Last month, lesbian state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced a bill to repeal the state travel ban with the support of several LGBTQ leaders, though the author of the bill that created the "no-fly list," gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), has spoken out against doing so.

Cynthia Laird contributed reporting.

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