BRIDGE Project (SB 447) Garners Support in San Diego, Passes First Assembly Committee

July 14, 2023

San Diego, CA – Just days after having passed its first Assembly Committee hearing and with San Diego Pride events underway, State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D- San Diego) held a press conference Friday to highlight her legislation to uplift and support LGBTQ+ communities across the nation.

Joined by a group of vocal supporters, Pro Tem Atkins explained what inspired her to author Senate Bill 447 and why this legislation is critical now more than ever for the LGBTQ+ community.

“Growing up in southwestern Virginia, I was isolated and didn’t have many role models in the LGBTQ+ community to look up to. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be accepted for who I was,” Pro Tem Atkins said. “I was fortunate that when I did come out, my family was supportive, but sadly, that’s not the case for many Americans.  We’ve seen a rise in division and hateful rhetoric, further isolating our LGBTQ+ community in more conservative parts of our nation, and even in pockets of California. This bill aims to cut through some of that divisiveness, and encourage acceptance and understanding.”

SB 447 would lift California’s travel ban to states with anti-LGBTQ+ policies and put in its place a non-partisan outreach campaign to encourage acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community. Just today, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced three additional states are being added to the travel ban list - Missouri, Nebraska, and, Wyoming, bringing the total to 26 states. SB 447 would create a fund to sponsor 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 build bridges to unify communities.

SB 447 passed the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development, and the Economy on a 6-1 vote on Tuesday, July 11. Learn more about the BRIDGE Project here.

Supporters who spoke at the press conference today included State Senator Steve Padilla, Assemblymember Christopher Ward, Fernando Lopez Executive Director of San Diego Pride, Cara Dessert Chief Executive Officer of the San Diego LGBT Community Center, Weylin Booth LGBTQ+ activist, Professor Charles Toombs President of the California Faculty Association, and Christynne Wood LGBTQ+ activist.

Here is what they are saying:

“LGBTQ+ rights are under attack and California will not be a bystander as this dangerous aggression infects this country. The BRIDGE Project helps California share and celebrate our diversity while we support out to our LGBTQ+ siblings in danger of seeing their rights taken away.”
     — Senator Steve Padilla (D- San Diego)

“It is time to pivot our strategy so that instead of a hard line of no contact, we have a direct line to reach people in the LGBTQ+ community where they are. Senate Bill 447 is the vehicle for the change we need. I thank Pro Tem Atkins for her forward-thinking leadership on the BRIDGE Project and I’m in full support.”
     — Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego)

"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

“The BRIDGE Project provides an opportunity to extend support to those who bear the brunt of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country. We are grateful to Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins for her unwavering dedication to the LGBTQ community throughout the years. Her visionary leadership in establishing this program is helping to cultivate an environment of inclusivity and acceptance for LGBTQ people.”

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

"Isolation is an incredibly dangerous and terrifying situation for a person within the LGBTQ+ community to be in. Without hope or guidance towards a better future we risk losing ourselves. This bill carries with it the promise of safety in the future of those otherwise alone, a promise of better things to come." 
     — Weylin Booth, Founder of Ramona Pride

“The promise and potential of SB 447 and the good it could accomplish is incredible. This is a kind of organized resistance of love, support, and access to potential resources from the Golden State, which has never been more golden and where rainbows have never shined brighter. And it is precisely the message that we need to be sending to anyone who feels alone in these states where anti-LGBTQ+ hate is on the rise – to them I say you are loved, and you always will be supported and welcomed by California with joy and fellowship.”
     — Christynne Wood, local LGBTQ+ activist

“SB 447, the Bridge Project, is immediately needed to provide alternative perspectives in states passing anti-LGBTQ+ laws and pursuing repressive agendas. LGBTQ+ communities in these states, with many intersections of race, ethnicity, class, age, need help. California State University faculty, for example, are members of national professional organizations, and they should be able to travel to conferences and meetings in these states to present their research findings, their professional positions that may be and often are counter to the anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-woke conservative movement that aims to take our country backwards.”
     — Dr. Charles Toombs, President, California Faculty Association and Professor,
          San Diego State University



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: