Diversity and Inclusion

California Swaps Travel Ban for Outreach Funding

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California's travel ban is no more. State-sponsored events can once again take place in any of the 26 states previously banned. Instead, California will fund outreach to LGBTQ communities in those states.

On Wednesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed new legislation into law eliminating the statewide travel ban to states that have enacted laws that oppose specific rights to members of the LGBTQ community. 

Senate Bill 447, also known as the “Bridge Project,” aims to foster acceptance of the LGBTQ community through outreach to those states. It reverses the 2016 Assembly Bill 1887, which barred state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions in California from state-funded travel to any of the 26 states that adopted policies that were seen as being discriminatory and anti-LGBTQ.

“California is standing strong against anti-LGBTQ+ hate!” said California State Senate pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins who authored the new bill, in a social media post. Atkins, who is openly lesbian, added that her bill “creates the BRIDGE Project, a campaign to open hearts and minds, promote inclusivity, and support LGBTQ+ communities nationwide!” The law had prevented or influenced planners and companies from hosting in states under the ban.

History of California’s Travel Ban

When first signed into law, AB 1887 enacted travel bans to only four states, but that number increased to over half the country after Attorney General Bob Bonta added Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming to that list in July, pointing to the law’s ineffectiveness. Evan Low, a Democrat who is openly gay and from Cupertino in Northern California, enacted AB 1887 in 2016.

The travel ban impacted states that enacted legislation on transgender access to school restrooms, participation in youth sports, and “gender affirming” surgical procedures and hormonal treatment on children. Critics of these laws have referred to them as anti-LGBTQ while advocates say they protect children’s rights. 

In a statement thanking Atkins for her efforts in championing the bill, Newsom said, “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,” adding, “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 came under fire when he visited his wife’s family in Montana last year. He responded by saying it but said it was personal travel, paid for out of pocket, and so didn’t constitute state-sponsored travel. However, Newsom declined to comment on whether or not the state paid for his security detail, creating a political liability for the governor.

Policies Impacting Meetings

New Orleans & Company President and CEO Walt Leger, spoke out against travel bans impacting meetings and events saying, “I hate the fact that in the current environment, you have people who are wanting to boycott a venue or boycott a city because of a policy”. He believes there are more productive ways to communicate regarding specific policies while proactively engaging. “You’re just so much better off going and trying to effectuate change than staying away because you disagree with it.” 

Leger, who took the reins at New Orleans & Co. in 2022, added, “I’m excited about trying to keep building that conversation and helping people to find a path for their voice to be heard because it kind of fuels many of my passions, which is trying to change things for the better but also protecting our city from, you know, any negativity that could come from things outside of our control.”

Photo credit: Drei Kubik / Unsplash