California reverses course on travel ban

Politics and government

Editor’s note: The Signal is presenting CalMatters’ wrap-up stories on some of the key bills that reached the governor’s desk at the close of the 2023 legislative session. Here’s the CalMatters summary of a bill that ends California’s ban on state-funded travel to states whose laws are deemed “anti-LGBTQ.” 

By Alexei Koseff  
CalMatters Writer 

Seven years after California prohibited publicly funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws, it reverses course. Senate Bill 447 by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who is the first openly gay leader of the chamber, repeals a travel ban that has proved largely ineffective, restricting Californians more than those it was intended to punish.  

In its place, the measure creates an advertising program to promote LGBTQ inclusion across the country.  

Who Supports It 

Many LGBTQ advocates, including leading civil rights organization Equality California, joined the effort, calling for a new direction focused on changing hearts and minds. California State University and its faculty union — whose academic researchers and student athletes turned to private donations to get around the travel restrictions — also backed the measure.  

Who Is Opposed 

Though SB 447 faced no organized opposition, critics including Republican legislators argue it would be inappropriate to spend potentially millions of dollars annually trying to influence other states. Assemblymember Evan Low, the Cupertino Democrat behind the travel ban, did not vote to repeal it.  

Why It Matters 

Prompted by North Carolina’s then-highly controversial move to require people to use only bathrooms corresponding with their sex at birth, California’s travel ban eventually grew to encompass two dozen states — including Texas, Florida and Arizona — that exclude transgender girls from high school sports, limit access to transgender health care and allow adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples.   

The Governor’s Call  

Newsom quickly signed the bill on Sept. 13, a day after it landed on his desk. “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,” he said in a statement. 

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