It's become a complicated and perhaps pointless exercise for the State of California to enforce a ban on funding travel to 23 states with anti-LGBTQ laws now in effect, and a lesbian lawmaker is hoping to lift the ban soon.
"I think polarization is not working," says openly gay state Senate leader Toni Atkins, speaking to the Associated Press. “We need to adjust our strategy. We know what we need to do, but we need to be able to be there to do it.”
Atkins introduced legislation Wednesday that would lift the ban on travel to those 23 states with discriminatory laws, and replace it with state funding for an ad campaign to pushed out into those states. The shape of the campaign isn't clear, but Atkins suggests that it will "promote acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTQ community."
The ban, first enacted seven years ago and introduced by another LGBTQ member of the legislature, Assemblymember Evan Low, has had some unintended consequences. As the AP explains, the prohibition "means schools like the University of California, Berkeley, can’t use state money for their football teams to travel to away games in Arizona and Utah — schools it must play against because they are in the same athletic conference." Those teams have fund that travel in some other way.
Also, the ban has complicated a newer effort by the state to subsidize travel for women coming from those same states where abortion is now illegal, in order to seek abortions in California.
Writing in the Chronicle this week, Emily Hoeven suggests the travel ban was always "performative" and calls Atkins' proposed bill "a welcome sign that they’re moving to embrace substantive policy."
And, Hoeven notes that the SF Board of Supervisors is similarly considering lifting its own ban on travel to some 30 states, following a February report by City Administrator Carmen Chu. Chu pointed out that the current ban is driving up contractor costs by 10% to 20% annually, and the supervisors have already carved out an exception for construction contracts from businesses in banned states.
This is all happening as states across the South and Midwest have enacted new laws that discriminate against and dehumanize LGBTQ people, some in the interest of "protecting children" from what Republican lawmakers believe are dangerous influences.
"The law has done little to stop prominent politicians from crossing into banned states or prevent California dollars from flowing into their economies — but has done much to stifle critical research, conversations and exchanges of ideas that could have benefited the very groups whose rights California was purporting to defend," Hoeven writes.
Indeed, Governor Gavin Newsom traveled to Texas last fall, in defiance of the ban, in order to show his disapproval for the state's abortion restrictions, among other things.
Still, Assemblymember Low, things the ban is still important, telling the AP, "We can’t back down, especially as a record amount of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation is being introduced."
Photo: Trey Musk