Bill signing
Sen. Toni Atkins holds up the signed bill in a ceremony with Gov. Gavin Newsom and other legislators. Courtesy of the Governor’s office

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins’ “BRIDGE” bill ending California’s restriction on official travel to states with anti-LGBTQ laws.

Senate Bill 447, which passed the Assembly 64-12 on Monday and the Senate 31-6 on Tuesday, replaces the travel ban with a program to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community across the United States. 

In campaigning for the bill, Atkins said that California’s travel ban, enacted in 2016, had sent a message to conservative states, but had lost effectiveness with the list having grown to 26.

Over the years, the travel ban has unintentionally hampered Californians from being able to conduct research and business, play college sports, and engage with people from those states.

Atkins, who is the first openly gay person to lead the state Senate, recounted her experience growing up in rural, southwestern Virginia.

“I remember what it was like to grow up in a time and place where conversations about someone being gay or lesbian only happened in whispers,” she said. “While years have passed since then, there are still areas of our country where the LGBTQ+ community — and especially our LGBTQ+ youth — feel isolated and fearful for their safety.”

“The BRIDGE Project would be a conduit of hope and compassion, and encourage others to open their hearts and minds to be more accepting and inclusive,” she said.

 The BRIDGE name comes from the bill’s official title, which is “building and reinforcing inclusive, diverse, and gender-supportive equality.”

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.