A California law banning publicly funded travel to states with laws that discriminate against LGBTQ people is no longer active under legislation signed Wednesday by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
California’s Senate Bill 447, also known as the BRIDGE Project, officially repeals a 2016 law that prohibited the state from sponsoring travel to states with laws in place that discriminate “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.”
At the time of the BRIDGE Project’s passage, the number of states subject to California’s ban was an unprecedented 26, preventing state workers — including university professors and elected officials — from visiting more than half the country on state-sponsored trips.
The bill’s primary sponsor, California state Sen. Toni Atkins, a Democrat and the first openly LGBTQ person to lead the state Legislature as Senate president, argued this legislative session that the state’s travel ban has led to unintended consequences and has isolated some of the most vulnerable people in other states.
The new law, which is effective immediately, replaces the travel prohibition with an outreach campaign that encourages LGBTQ acceptance and inclusivity in red states, where a majority of anti-LGBTQ bills were filed and passed this year.
“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,” Newsom said Wednesday in a news release.
The Democratic-controlled state Legislature voted overwhelmingly this week to pass the measure. The bill was endorsed by LGBTQ rights groups including Equality California and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
“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,” Atkins said Wednesday in a statement released by Newsom’s office.
“There’s so much hate, so much hurt, so much harm being inflicted on people who are just trying to live their authentic lives,” Atkins said. “The BRIDGE Project is a chance to counter that with kindness and empathy, and I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for swiftly signing this bill into law, and to my colleagues in both parties who voted for it. We will be the bridge to a more understanding and compassionate nation.”
A record-breaking 496 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced this year in state legislatures across the county, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. At least 84 have become law, more than doubling last year’s total.