What Others Are Saying: Lawmakers, Leaders, Advocates Vocalize Support for BRIDGE Project

April 17, 2023

SACRAMENTO - An innovative new approach to encourage acceptance and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community in other states – introduced by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) as SB 447 – passed out of its first Senate committee today.

In late March, Pro Tem Atkins introduced SB 447, legislation that would lift California’s travel ban to other states and create in its place a program to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel less isolated. Called the BRIDGE Project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality – the legislation would help California champion compassion and help build bridges to unify communities.

The bill will was heard in the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development today and passed on a 10-3 vote.

Here’s what supporters had to say about the BRIDGE Project:

“The LGBTQ+ community is facing unprecedented attacks jeopardizing hard-fought protections and our right to exist. As a community and a state, we must take the necessary steps to be on offense and fight back against the hateful rhetoric being spewed by right-wing politicians and extremists. SB 447 is an important step to help bridge the divide in our nation and show support for LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary youth, that are under siege in states across the country. We know that personal stories are essential to open hearts and minds, and putting a program in place to infuse inclusive, positive messages in other states is a way that California can spread its values.”

- Tony Hoang , Equality California Executive Director

“The travel ban sent an important message when it was passed. I appreciate that SB 447 will remove challenges to California’s universities raised by unintended consequences from the ban, and provide a way for California to move forward with inclusive efforts to protect and promote members of the LGBTQ community across the country. While we recognize what the travel ban accomplished when it was passed, we also must address the unintended consequences and diminished utility that has become its legacy.”

- John A. Pérez, UC Regent and Speaker Emeritus of the Assembly

“Affirming and supportive messages were few and far between when I arrived at Duke for college in the 1980s - I had to come to San Francisco for that. The BRIDGE Project turns up the volume on positive messages for LGBTQ people around the country. As attacks on LGBTQ people rise to their most extreme level in generations, it’s imperative that California fight back. This bill provides a powerful opportunity to do so.”

- Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), past chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus

“I fully support Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ decision to lift the travel ban on states with anti-LGBTQ+ laws. The travel ban was a powerful tool at its inception; however, it is clear in recent years it has not worked in influencing state legislatures across the nation to end ongoing attacks on LGBTQ+ and TGI rights. We must instead reach across state lines to support our LGBTQ+ siblings currently in danger of having their basic rights and protections taken away from them and forced back in the closet,”

- Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), chair of the LGBTQ Legislative Caucus

“The anti-LGBTQ+ polices and rhetoric coming out of other states are harmful to the entire LGBTQ+ community and in particular transgender people. These policies have ripple effects across the country and the travel ban unfortunately is no longer effective in preventing attacks on our communities. I applaud Senator Atkins’ leadership on SB 447 the BRIDGE Project. The BRIDGE Project will help break down the divides caused by hateful rhetoric and build a counter narrative that promotes inclusivity through positive, non-partisan messaging.”

- Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-West Hollywood)

“Anti-LGBTQ+ laws are aimed to divide people by instilling fear and mistrust. As leaders, it is our duty to tear down the walls of intolerance and find common ground. These past four years, I have been able to work with insurance commissioners from all states regardless of political party and personal creed towards a common purpose of protecting consumers. Pro Tem Atkins’ BRIDGE Project will help further our vital work of protecting the health and safety of all LGBTQ+ Americans.”

- Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, CA’s first openly gay statewide elected leader

“Pro Tem Toni Atkins is a long-time champion and supporter of the trans+ and gender diverse community. Her bills, strong visible allyship, and behind-the-scenes leadership has unquestionably made life easier for trans+ and gender diverse Californians for years. The Pro Tem’s support of our community uplifts trans+ and gender diverse folks - throughout our nation - in both ways we know and will never know. I am continuously grateful for her personal support, friendship, and her core belief that trans people belong.”

- Evan Minton, National Transgender Advocate

“The LGBTQ community is under attack, with an unprecedented 400+ anti-LGBTQ bills circulating through state legislatures, and LGBTQ youth in particular are being targeted. The BRIDGE Project is an opportunity to center LGBTQ people, regardless of state borders, and reach folks who are most deeply impacted by anti-LGBTQ legislation.  We celebrate Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ decades-long commitment to the LGBTQ community and are grateful for her vision to build this innovative program that will foster inclusion and acceptance of LGBTQ people.”

- Cara Dessert, CEO of the San Diego LGBT Community Center

"LGBTQ Americans and our families are rightly terrified by the rise in anti-LGBTQ legislation and violence happening across this country, and we don't fix that by turning our backs. It's time to lean in. If we want to build a safer, more inclusive nation for LGBTQ people, we have to reach out, connect, comfort, support, and educate in the ever-increasing number of states and cities where our community is most vulnerable and most targeted. The BRIDGE Project, proposed by SB 447, gives us the tools to create a stronger bridge of hope for these communities and encourages acceptance through dialogue and education, fostering the change we all want to see in the world."

- Fernando Z. López, San Diego Pride Executive Director

“NCLR fully supports SB 447, a strategic bill which will enable Californians to boldly take a stand for LGBTQ youth and families in states where they are under unprecedented attacks. This is an all hands on deck moment, and we need Californians to be able to do our part in every place where we are needed.”

- Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

“California has long been viewed as a leader in LGBTQ inclusivity. The BRIDGE project will help to bring visibility about the LGBTQ community across the country. With all the attacks that are happening in state legislation this project will help to raise awareness and the mental health of many LGBTQ people. We applaud Senator Atkins for her leadership in this and other measure of equality and civil rights.”

- Kathie Moehlig, Executive Director Trans Family Support Services 

“Lifting the travel ban would enable California professors to conduct LGBTQ research in states with anti-LGBTQ+ discriminatory laws – this is critically important, as research and support is urgently needed there. In recent years, it has been hard for us to travel to these states to present our LGBTQ research and to educate the public about LGBTQ people. As a UC professor who studies LGBTQ youth in the Inland Empire and South Texas, the travel ban has impacted my ability to conduct research in Texas and to travel there, and other states, to present the important findings from this research.”

- Brandon Andrew Robinson, Ph.D. Chair and Associate Professor Department of Gender and Sexuality Studies UC Riverside



Toni G. Atkins is President pro Tempore of the California Senate. Having previously served as Speaker of the California Assembly, she began her tenure in the Senate in 2016. As Senator for District 39, she represents the cities of San Diego, Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach. Website of President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins: www.senate.ca.gov/Atkins


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