SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) - California Governor Gavin Newsom Wednesday signed a bill lifting the state-funded travel ban to parts of the country with anti-LGBTQ+ laws a day after it passed the state Legislature.
But while removing the travel ban, Senate Bill 447 also creates a new program called the BRIDGE Project (Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, and Gender-supportive Equality). The project will encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community and launch a fund to pay for nonpartisan messaging designed to discourage discrimination.
The bill, written by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, is effective immediately.
"In the face of a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, this measure helpsCalifornia's message of acceptance, equality and hope reachthe places where it is most needed," Newsom said in a news release. "I thank Pro Tem Atkins for authoring this important measure that enables California to continue taking a stand for the rights of LGBTQ+ people throughout the country and combating intolerance and hate with empathy and allyship."
Atkins said the bill's passage sends a message to the nation that Californians embrace one another because of their differences. It also means that its people are prepared to reach across political aisles, and state lines, to open minds and support LGBTQ+ youth and communities that feel alone.
Despite the lift on the years old travel ban, still, no state employee will be required to visit a state with a discriminatory law.
"There's so much hate, so much hurt, so much harm being inflicted on people who are just trying to live their authentic lives," Atkins said in the release. "The BRIDGE Project is a chance to counter that with kindness and empathy, and I'm grateful to Governor Newsom for swiftly signing this bill into law, and to my colleagues in both parties who voted for it. We will be the bridge to a more understanding and compassionate nation."
Atkins has said that the law will help the state position itself on the issue of inclusivity.
The BRIDGE Project will be housed in the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). The public awareness project it creates is aimed at promoting California's acceptance and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community across the nation, with educational efforts focused on raising public awareness and promoting civil rights.
GO-Biz will contract with advertising agencies and have an advisory committee. That committee will give advice on media campaigns. No campaign can promote a political purpose, or feature public officials or candidates for office.
The ban on taxpayer-funded travel by state agencies has been on the books since 2016. It prohibited people from traveling to states with discriminatory laws based on sexual orientation. When implemented, there were four such states. That number has since grown to 26, which has stymied Californians' research efforts and business. During the ban, state workers and lawmakers continued to travel, but not in an official capacity.
Source: Courthouse News Service