California lawmakers push to end travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws

In 2016, California lawmakers banned state-funded travel to any state that enacted anti-LGBTQ laws. They called it a way to fight back against policies like North Carolina’s law preventing transgender people from using bathrooms that aligned with their gender identity. 

"Sent the message that these are not values that should be applied to our community," said State Senate President pro tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). 

Atkins was among those who voted for the ban. Now, she wants it repealed and replaced with a new program. 

"We have now had 23 states that fall under that legislation," said Atkins. "I think it’s time to pivot because it’s not as effective as it could be, really isolates us."

Atkins points to consequences of the law like preventing state employees from traveling to these 23 states to conduct research and business. It also forced sports teams from public universities to find other ways to pay for certain travel. The driving factor for Atkins to introduce SB447—promoting inclusion at a time when the ACLU says nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills are moving through state legislatures.  

"The way to change hearts and minds is to be present," said Atkins. "To engage, to interact, then you see I’m just a regular person that loves another woman, but I just want to live my life," said Atkins. "I want to be accepted." 


Families with transgender kids forced to travel out of state for care they need

With at least 20 states moving to ban or restrict such care for minors, some kids feel they are receiving the message that they cannot be themselves.

The BRIDGE project stands for "building and reinforcing inclusive, diverse, gender-supportive equality." It would create a donation-driven fund to create inclusive messaging in other states. 

"It’s time to take a new direction," said Jorge Reyes Salinas, spokesperson with Equality California. "It’s time to change the narrative and get to changing hearts and minds and how California’s values have the people’s best interests." 

Atkins, a lesbian, points to her own experience growing up in rural Virginia. 

"It wasn’t their worldview or experience, but they loved their daughter," explained Atkins. "We were fortunate they loved me and supported me and accepted me." 

There’s no formal opposition to this bill, but a state analysis raises concerns about financial pressures on the state, if donations don’t come in. Atkins is confident that won’t be the case. 

"We were very mindful of that, which is why it is a donation-based program," said Atkins. "The infrastructure already exists, I think people will step up." 

SB447 is headed to the Assembly appropriations committee. If it passes, it’ll head to the floor for a full vote.