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California lifts ban on state-funded travel to states with laws 'against' 'gender identity' or 'transgender people'

Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

California no longer prohibits state-sponsored travel to about half of the United States and instead has redirected government funds to potential marketing campaigns in the previously banned states.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 447 on September 13, 2023, to lift a state-sponsored travel ban to "any state that has enacted a law" that the California state government determines to be discriminatory "against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people."

California Assembly Bill 1887 passed in 2016 and prohibited any state agency "from requiring any of its employees, officers, or members to travel to" a banned state. It also stopped agencies from "approving a request for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to" a banned state.

By the end of 2022, the banned travel list grew to almost half of the country (24 states) when it added Arizona, Indiana, Louisiana, and Utah. The Center Square reported that most of the additions to the list were due to state bans on men competing in women's sports.

The governor faced criticism over the ban in 2022, when Newsom himself traveled to Montana for a vacation, despite the state being on the prohibition list. The governor did not use state funds, however, and it was decided that funding for his security detail didn't count either.

Exceptions had officially included travel related to law enforcement, public safety, contractual obligations made before 2017, and more.

In late March 2023, Democratic state Senate leader Toni Atkins called for an appeal of the ban.

Five months later, the new bill implements a marketing campaign "to raise public awareness and promote civil rights and antidiscrimination through education, advertising, and marketing activities."

Such an ad campaign "may target audiences in a state or states, or a media market" that have enacted laws that California considers to be discriminatory "on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression."

“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,” Newsom said, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Atkins also spoke fondly of the new bill and described the amount of "harm" she beleives is happening in the United States.

“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 claimed. “We will be the bridge to a more understanding and compassionate nation.”

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