Senate Leader Atkins’ BRIDGE Project to Foster Acceptance of LGBTQ+ People in Other States Passes Senate
SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Bill 447 – the BRIDGE Project – passed out of the Senate on a 31-8 vote. The bill, authored by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) would lift California’s travel ban to other states and create in its place a program to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.
“California has long been a leader in inclusion and acceptance, and a beacon of hope for so many LGBTQ+ people, myself included,” said Pro Tem Atkins. “Hundreds of discriminatory, anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced this year alone – it’s unprecedented, and my heart hurts for all of the folks in other states where this is happening. The folks who feel alone and isolated. This bill is about reaching out to them with messages of support and understanding, and at the same time, helping open hearts and minds so that acceptance, instead of animosity, wins the day.”
SB 447 would create a donation-driven fund that could be used to create inclusive messaging, discourage discrimination, and help members of the LGBTQ+ community in other states feel less isolated. Called the BRIDGE Project – Building and Reinforcing Inclusive, Diverse, Gender-Supportive Equality – the legislation would help California champion compassion and outreach to people isolated by anti-LBGTQ+ policies.
California’s current travel restriction went into effect in 2016 with Assembly Bill 1887, which restricts state agencies, departments, boards, and commissions from using taxpayer funds to travel to states that have adopted discriminatory anti-LGBTQ+ laws.
The original travel ban was well intentioned, and was successful in bringing attention to the discriminatory practices in other states at the time. As years passed, however, it has had the unintended effect of hampering Californians from being able to conduct research, business, and engage with all people from those states.
State legislatures have introduced more than 470 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation this year, according to the ACLU. In Texas alone, there are over 52 bills advancing through the legislative process. In 2022, state legislatures around the country introduced 315 anti-equality bills, 29 of which were signed into law. These policies are increasingly targeting LGBTQ+ youth and those in the trans community.
“I grew up in a conservative, rural community in southwestern Virginia, with deep ties in the church. My parents didn’t understand at first when I came out, but they loved me, and their acceptance grew because of it. That’s the thing – people are more accepting when it’s someone they know. The BRIDGE Project can help foster that connectivity.”
A survey by the Pew Research Center found that individual relationships and the role of well-known public figures are viewed as being the most helpful in terms of fostering acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Seven out of 10 LGBT adults who participated in the survey say people knowing someone who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender helps a lot in making society more accepting.
SB 447 now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
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