Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, D-San Diego, the first openly LGBTQ+ person to lead the statehouse’s upper chamber, speaks at the inauguration of Karen Bass, the first Black woman elected Los Angeles mayor, on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2022. The state Assembly passed Atkins’ bill to end a ban on state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ+ law on Monday, Sept. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California is deliberating the possibility of lifting its three-year-old ban on state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws and opting instead for an outreach and advertising campaign to promote pro-LGBTQ messages. Introduced by state Senate leader Toni Atkins, the bill gained significant momentum after being passed by the Assembly on Monday. It now awaits a final vote in the Senate before reaching Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Implemented in 2017, the travel ban has prohibited elected officials, state workers, and university scholars from using state funds to travel to more than half of the country, alluding to stringent anti-LGBTQ legislation prevalent in those states. Though the exact number of states on the ban list remains undisclosed, its impact has been substantial, curtailing official visits, academic exchanges, and various professional endeavors.

Under the proposed legislation, the travel ban would be lifted, and a comprehensive outreach and advertising campaign would be established exclusively in states currently on the travel ban list. This initiative aims to champion LGBTQ rights and create awareness by spreading pro-LGBTQ messages across the targeted regions.

“While the travel ban was an effective measure to demonstrate our state’s support for LGBTQ equality, we believe a more proactive, positive approach is necessary,” said Sen. Atkins. “By implementing this outreach program, we can directly engage with communities affected by discriminatory laws and foster understanding, empathy, and acceptance.”

Supporters of the bill argue that the campaign will not only promote inclusivity and social progress but also boost tourism and further California’s reputation as a leader in LGBTQ rights.

Critics, on the other hand, express concern about the potential impact on California’s finances. With state funds redirected from banning travel to investing in advertising, opponents question the cost-effectiveness of the proposed campaign.

The bill’s passage in the Assembly signifies a significant step forward for LGBTQ advocacy in California. Now it faces the Senate, where it is anticipated to generate further debate and scrutiny before ultimately reaching Governor Newsom’s desk for final consideration.

Should Governor Newsom sign the bill into law, California’s travel ban would be extinguished, marking a pivotal shift in the state’s approach toward promoting LGBTQ rights, emphasizing dialogue, and fostering inclusivity nationwide.