San Francisco supervisors repeal ban on travel to anti-LGBTQ states

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday April 25, 2023
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The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to end the city's publicly-funded travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws. Photo: Steven Underhill<br>
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to end the city's publicly-funded travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws. Photo: Steven Underhill

San Francisco's ban on taxpayer funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws and doing business with companies headquartered in them is coming to an end. It is sure to add momentum to the push by state lawmakers to also end California's travel ban policy to such states.

As expected, the city's Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 at its meeting Tuesday to repeal the policy known as 12X. First enacted in 2016 to cover states that enacted laws curtailing LGBTQ rights, it was expanded to also apply to states with restrictions on abortion access and voting.

It led to the 12X policy covering 30 states, nearly two-thirds of the country. It also sparked a growing backlash to it, as detractors argued it wasn't effective at promoting the city's liberal values in other states.

Instead, they argued 12X merely resulted in city contracts becoming more expensive due to fewer companies being able to bid on them. Mayor London Breed in late March signed into law a change to the policy that allowed for construction firms in the 30 states to once again bid on public contracts in the city.

The supervisors had voted 7-4 for the change, signaling there was also support to scrap the entirety of 12X. Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman authored the ordinance to do just that, 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 signing on as co-sponsors.

Safaí had authored the ordinance that ended the prohibition related to construction contracts. Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey also signed on as a co-sponsor to Mandelman's ordinance.

Supplying the seventh vote to pass it at the board's April 25 meeting was gay District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, who also came on board as a co-sponsor. The board must adopt it a second time at its May 2 meeting before sending it to Breed, who is set to sign the 12X repeal into law shortly thereafter.

When it came up before the supervisors' Rules Committee last week, Mandelman noted, "Some feel it's waving a white flag — I don't."

This week Mandelman again stressed that 12X is "not achieving the goal" it was meant to achieve and instead is "making our government less efficient."

But District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton reiterated his concerns about doing away with the policy without having more study and analysis on how it will impact the local LGBTQ community and small business owners in the city.

"This really could backfire on our small businesses," said Walton.

Supervisors Myrna Melgar of District 7, Dean Preston of District 5 and Connie Chan of District 1 concurred with Walton and voted to keep the 12X policy in place. Chan said she is looking to see how to "accomplish the intent" of the travel and contracting bans once they are repealed.

It does come as lawmakers in other states continue to pass anti-LGBTQ laws this year. A major LGBTQ rights group in Florida has even issued a travel warning for the Sunshine State due to lawmakers there repealing the rights of LGBTQ people.

Nonetheless, a bill to end California's travel ban policy to such states is making its way through the Legislature. Lesbian state Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced Senate Bill 447 to repeal it and replace it with a marketing effort in support of LGBTQ rights in conservative states. How much money would be allocated for it, or where the funding would come from, has yet to be determined.

While it is expected to pass out of the state Senate, it may face opposition in the Assembly due to the author of the law, gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), expressing misgivings about repealing it. Also yet to commit to supporting SB 447 is Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco).

"I haven't reviewed the bill yet. This is the first time I have heard of it," Haney told the Bay Area Reporter during a phone interview April 21.

The former San Francisco supervisor had joined the board after the city's "no-fly list" to anti-LGBTQ states had already been put into place. But he did vote on expanding its scope to cover states that moved to block abortion access in 2019 and restrict voting rights in 2021.

"I think it was well intentioned," Haney said of the city's 12X policy. "But I think it absolutely makes sense for the board to evaluate the policy and to make appropriate changes to ensure we can keep contract costs down and if it is also having a real impact on reactionary policies across the country."

A spokesperson for Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who has served in Sacramento since 2012, did not respond to the B.A.R.'s inquiry on if he supports Atkins' legislation known as the BRIDGE Project, an acronym for Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality.

The city's third representative in the Legislature, gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), had authored the city's 12X policy when he served on the Board of Supervisors. He came out in support of rescinding it in its entirety in February and is also supporting SB 447.

"As attacks on LGBTQ people rise to their most extreme level in generations, it's imperative that California fight back. This bill provides a powerful opportunity to do so," stated Wiener earlier this month after it passed out of its first Senate committee.

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