California could lift travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ laws


California lawmakers voted to lift a longstanding ban on federally funded travel to areas that have targeted LGBTQ+ people, amid a dramatic increase in discriminatory laws across the country.

The Democratic-led California State Assembly passed SB 447 on Monday, which would repeal the ban that went into effect in 2017. The current law effectively bans elected officials and state employees from visiting half the country for work and creates major hurdles for sports teams to travel out of the country for events.

The bill was introduced by State Senator Toni Atkins (D), who said the current law served its purpose and raised awareness about the spread of hateful laws. But the sheer number of states that have introduced anti-LGBTQ+ laws – almost 500 before lawmakers this year alone – has now had unintended consequences for millions of Californians.

“As legislators who have put forward the most LGBTQ-friendly bills on reproductive rights and racial justice, we should be in all of these states to be able to share our experiences.” Atkins said in March, according to The Los Angeles Times. “Polarization doesn’t work. We have to adapt our strategy.”

Instead, Atkins, who is lesbian, has proposed a new initiative that would create an outreach program for LGBTQ+ people, including an advertising program in Republican-led states. The program, she said Monday, will focus on “understanding, empathy and kindness.”

The bill will head to the Senate for a final vote before being sent to the desk of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). He has until October 14th to sign it.

The California Ban was issued in 2017, shortly after North Carolina passed a so-called bathroom law that required people to use public restrooms that matched their gender assigned at birth. The California legislature banned all federally funded travel to North Carolina and any other states with laws targeting LGBTQ+ people, which then applied to a total of four states.

But Republicans have targeted queer Americans in recent years, passing a series of laws that restrict the rights of transgender people, drag queens and the ability of teachers to talk about their sexuality, among other things.

Such laws now exist in 26 states.

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