Lawmakers in California voted to lift a long-standing ban on state-funded travel to areas that have targeted LGBTQ+ people amid a dramatic surge in discriminatory legislation around the country.
California’s Democrat-led State Assembly passed SB 447 on Monday, which would lift the ban that went into effect in 2017. The current law effectively bars elected officials and state workers from visiting half the country for work, and presents major hurdles for sports teams seeking to travel out of the state for events.
The bill was introduced by state Sen. Toni Atkins (D), who said the current law has served its purpose and raised awareness about the spread of hateful legislation. But the sheer number of states that have introduced anti-LGBTQ+ bills — nearly 500 have gone before lawmakers this year alone — is now having unintended consequences for millions of Californians.
“We should, as legislators who have put forward the most LGBTQ-friendly, reproductive rights, racial justice bills, we should be in all of those states to be able to share our experience,” Atkins said in March, per The Los Angeles Times. “Polarization is not working. We need to adjust our strategy.”
Instead, Atkins, who is a lesbian, has proposed a new effort that would create an outreach program for LGBTQ+ people, including an advertising program in Republican-led states. The program, she said Monday, would focus on “understanding, empathy and kindness.”
The bill will head to the Senate for a final vote before moving to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) desk. He has until Oct. 14 to sign it.
The California ban was enacted in 2017, shortly after North Carolina passed a so-called bathroom bill that required people to use public restrooms that matched their sex assigned at birth. California lawmakers barred any state-funded travel to North Carolina and any other state with laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, which at the time applied to four states in total.
But Republicans have spent the past years targeting queer Americans, enacting a host of laws limiting the rights of trans people, drag queens and the ability of teachers to discuss their sexuality, among many others.
Twenty-six states now have such laws on the books.