California senate votes to reverse state-sponsored travel ban in states with anti-LGBTQ laws

The law will affect travel for sports teams at public universities.

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On Monday, California lawmakers voted to pass Senate Bill 447 to end the ban of state-funded travel to states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. SB 447 is heading to Governor Gavin Newsom for final approval.

California started banning state-sponsored travel to North Carolina as an act of retaliation when North Carolina adopted a legislation prohibiting transgender people from using their gender bathrooms in public buildings in 2016. The ban was signed into law the following year.

Following a surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislations, more states, mostly Republican-led and conservative-leaning, have made the list. Six years later, it has grown to 26 states.

The ban directly impacted government officials, public universities scholars and sports teams that conduct out-of-state business, research or road games using the state’s money.

The bill to end the ban was authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and is known as the BRIDGE project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, and Gender-Supportive Equality.

If passed, the bill would lift the travel ban, but it would also replace it with an outreach advocacy campaign for the LGBTQ+ community in conservative-leaning states.

“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,” Sen. Atkins said in a press release.

“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. It’s within all of us to be that light.”

The ban has been impacting sports teams in particular that have had to rely on alternative funding sources to pay for their games out of state.

That means that football teams from public universities such as the UCLA Bruins can’t use state money to travel to play Utah or Arizona teams while being part of the same athletic conference.

Other universities like San Diego State University have not been able to play teams based in Arizona and Utah because of the ban. “We haven’t been scheduling games with those teams,” said Jamie McConeghy, senior associate athletic director of communication and media relations.

“Once [the bill] is passed, it will immediately change who we can schedule, mostly for home-and-home games,” said McConeghy. “We worked our way around it for a little bit with the NCAA,” he said, referring to basketball games played in Houston, Texas — a state on the no-travel list. These games were financed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and players didn’t have to use state money to pay for their travel expenses.

SB 447 will affect the future game schedules of San Diego State’s football team, but not anytime soon. McConeghy said that SDSU’s football team already has their games scheduled until the 2030-2031 season.