A bill to end California’s travel ban to “anti-LGBT law” states passed the Assembly on Tuesday, moving the bill to the Governor’s desk.
Senate Bill 447, authored by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), would end California’s ant-LGBT law travel ban to 26 states, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. However, rather than just end the ban, the bill would instead replace it with the Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equity Project (BRIDGE Project) to “promote social equity, civil rights, and antidiscrimination through marketing and advertising campaigns.”
SB 447 would authorize the office to contract with a private, nonprofit agency and to use the services of volunteer advertising agencies and donated media to conduct marketing activities. Any media campaign under BRIDGE would either be on a national scale, or on the state scale and specifically target states that have enacted a law that voids or repeals, or has the effect of voiding or repealing, an existing state or local protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, or have enacted a law that authorizes or requires discrimination against same-sex couples or their families or on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
Senator Atkins wrote the bill because the current travel ban policy is not working in reversing state LGBT laws, as many states since the travel ban law was first passed in 2016 have been added to the state travel ban list, with none being removed. Earlier this year, Atkins specifically noted that a new method was needed and that a “hearts and minds” approach would be better.
Throughout the year, SB 447 has been a polarizing bill, splitting the legislature across party lines. While Republicans are happy to end the travel ban, the new approach of using expensive media campaigns in their place, something that lawmakers wouldn’t have a say in, has put the GOP in firm opposition. Conversely, while many Democrats would like to keep the ban in place,, most agreed that a new approach was needed instead, leading them to overwhelming support SB 447.
In May, SB 447 passed the Senate 31-8 with 1 abstention. Throughout the summer, support continued to be split across party lines, including an 11-4 Assembly Appropriations Committee vote earlier this month. This eventually led to the vote this week, with the Assembly ultimately passing it 64-12 with 4 abstentions.
SB 447 passes state legislature
“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,” said Assemblyman Rick Zbur (D-Los Angeles) on Tuesday. “With nearly 500 anti-LGBTQ bills having been introduced in legislatures nationwide this year alone, now more than ever, we need to reach into those communities with messages of support, inclusivity and understanding.”
Assemblyman Chris Ward (D-San Diego) added, “If something is not working, I think it’s imperative on us to be able to switch gears. This bill is going to be able to provide that support and nurturing that I know a lot of our fellow Americans are lacking right now.”
While the bill is now going to Governor Newsom’s desk, many experts have questioned if the new method of advertising and marketing would actually work. Some have also questioned if some top lawmakers would respond positively to the change, as many travel bans were put into place while SB 447 was moving up in the legislature, including a new travel ban in July that added Missouri, Nebraska, and Wyoming to the list.
“If this becomes law, these ad blitzes are not going to work,” said Chelsea Gardner-Baum, an LA-based interstate media consultant. Newsom tried tv ads, billboards, online ads, and even magazine ads last year, mixing new and old media. They didn’t work and were mocked relentlessly. Using a ‘hearts and mind’ approach is even more of a gamble.
“And the thing is, the negative LGBT policies those 26 states have actually brought some positives into California. Companies like Disney have pulled out of moves and expansions to states like Texas and Florida over LGBT restrictive laws there and moving jobs back to California. And many Californians who have moved out of the state moved back in part due to the laws. Many just plain hate Texas, but the laws are definitely a factor. California lawmakers didn’t have to do a thing. But, as I’m sure you’re aware, they just can’t help but mess with the program sometimes, so we’re seeing this.
“A better solution would be to work with companies and conferences thinking about leaving those states over those issues, and point them to go to California to help with the economy. That’s the smart solution. Don’t use ad buys. Beat them economically. That’s what California used to do and what states like Texas have been doing to a certain extent for years. You know, maybe throw in some tax credits and incentives to offset the high taxes too. You can see why lawmakers opposing this bill are so against it.”
Gov. Newsom is to decide on the bill by October 12th.
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