California is considering ending its ban on state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. Instead, they plan to launch an advertising campaign to spread anti-discrimination messages in conservative states.
In 2017, California initiated a ban on official travel to states with laws deemed discriminatory against LGBTQ+ individuals, including Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Over time, the list expanded to encompass 26 states, primarily Republican-led, due to an increase in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
This prohibition has affected elected officials, state employees, and university scholars, restricting their use of state funds for travel to over half the country. This posed challenges for sports teams at public colleges and universities, which had to seek alternative funding for games in states like Arizona and Utah. Additionally, it complicated California’s efforts to use state funds for out-of-state residents seeking abortions in California.
Recently, California’s state Assembly passed legislation to lift the travel ban. The bill, introduced by state Senate leader Toni Atkins, also aims to establish an outreach and advertising campaign in the banned states to promote pro-LGBTQ+ messages. Atkins, a lesbian, acknowledged that while the travel ban raised awareness about LGBTQ+ issues, it had unintended consequences.
Democratic Assemblymember Rick Zbur, former executive director of Equality California, said, “In many instances, the travel ban has inadvertently caused California to isolate its services and citizens in a time when we are leading the nation in ensuring inclusivity and freedom. With nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced in legislatures nationwide this year alone, we need to reach those communities with messages of support, inclusivity, and understanding.”
Although some Republicans opposed overturning the ban, there was no debate. The bill will now go to the Senate for a final vote and, if approved, will land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for a decision before October 14.
This change comes amid nationwide political debates over transgender rights, including attempts to ban gender-affirming care, exclude trans athletes from women’s sports, and mandate parental notification for gender identity changes in schools.
Additionally, the Assembly passed a bill allowing low-income Mexican residents living within 45 miles of the California-Mexico border to receive in-state tuition at specific community colleges in Southern California until 2029.
Furthermore, the Senate voted to require self-driving semitrucks to have a human presence, despite opposition from some who fear it could threaten jobs and innovation in the trucking industry. Another bill bans carrying guns in most public places, and a separate bill increases penalties for child traffickers while protecting victims from excessive penalties. These bills are pending final votes and potential approval by Gov. Newsom.