Newsom ends California's pro-LGBTQ travel ban

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday September 13, 2023
Share this Post:
Governor Gavin Newsom, center, signed Senate Bill 447 Wednesday and was joined by, from left, Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and Assemblymember Chris Ward. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office
Governor Gavin Newsom, center, signed Senate Bill 447 Wednesday and was joined by, from left, Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman and Assemblymember Chris Ward. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office

Within 24 hours of being sent a bill to repeal it, Governor Gavin Newsom ended California's ban on publicly funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws. It comes several months after San Francisco leaders ended their similar travel restriction.

Citing the lack of impact the travel ban has had in halting other legislatures from passing anti-LGBTQ laws since the policy took effect in 2016, lesbian outgoing Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) introduced this year Senate Bill 447 called the BRIDGE Act, which stands for Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality. It replaces the so-called no-fly list with a privately funded pro-LGBTQ marketing effort in the states on it, which this summer had grown to 26.

Her bill cleared its final legislative hurdle Tuesday and was presented to Newsom to sign. Atkins joined the governor along with several other members of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus to witness his signing SB 447 into law Wednesday.

"In the face of a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, this measure helps California's message of acceptance, equality and hope reach the places where it is most needed," stated Newsom. "I thank Pro Tem Atkins for authoring this important measure that enables California to continue taking a stand for the rights of LGBTQ+ people throughout the country and combating intolerance and hate with empathy and allyship."

Atkins had included an urgency clause so SB 447 would take effect immediately once signed into law by Newsom. She expressed her gratitude for the governor acting so swiftly in doing so, and thanked her colleagues for the bipartisan support the bill received in the Legislature.

"Today, we are sending a message to the rest of the nation — here in California, we embrace one another, not in spite of our differences, but because of them. And we are ready to reach across the aisle, and across state lines, to help open hearts and minds, and support our LGBTQ+ youth and communities who are feeling so alone," stated Atkins. "There's so much hate, so much hurt, so much harm being inflicted on people who are just trying to live their authentic lives."

A photo the governor's office sent out with the announcement of his signing SB 447 into law showed him joined by Atkins, lesbian state Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton,) and gay Assemblymembers Rick Chavez Zbur (D-Santa Monica/West Hollywood) and Chris Ward (D-San Diego) gathered by the bronze bear statue in the State Capitol.

Noticeably absent from the picture was gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), who wrote the initial legislation establishing the state's travel ban and had expressed misgivings about ending it. He was one of four members of his chamber who abstained Monday from voting on SB 447, when the bill passed out of the Assembly by a 64-12 vote.

Under the travel ban no taxpayer money has been allowed to pay for non-emergency travel by state employees, as well as faculty, students, and sports teams at state colleges, to those states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ laws since 2015. The restriction on traveling to Nebraska, added to the list this summer, was to have taken effect on October 1.

A broad coalition of LGBTQ groups and leaders had expressed support for doing away with the travel ban, arguing the policy also hampered the ability of LGBTQ advocates to be on the ground in the covered states arguing on behalf of LGBTQ rights. As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story last month, LGBTQ leaders in other states were also largely supportive of seeing California do away with the policy.

The law was "just for show," said Gia Pacheco, a transgender Texas native who is the full-time program coordinator for Organización Latina Trans Texas based in Houston. The Lone Star State had been added to the travel ban list in 2017, yet it didn't deter lawmakers in the Statehouse there from continuing to enact anti-LGBTQ laws, such as a prohibition on Texas physicians from providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth that went into effect September 1.

"I am sorry, but it is not helping anyone not in the state of California," said Pacheco, "and it is not helping anyone in the state of California because it is putting barriers on what they can do. A ban like that is a nice and flashy show but not doing anything for anyone."

It remains to be seen where the money will come from to pay for the pro-LGBTQ advertising campaign envisioned by Atkins under her BRIDGE Act. It instructs the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development, known as GO-Biz, to convene an advisory committee of upward of 10 members to advise it on the content of the media campaigns and strategic outreach to communities affected by the campaign.

Per the bill's language, the advisory committee members are to include "LGBTQ+ advocates, marketing and public relations professionals, and representatives from research institutions as necessary to develop and evaluate media campaigns funded pursuant to this article."

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.

Featured Local Savings