Leaders Say SF Boycott of Anti-LGBTQ+ States Does ‘More Harm Than Good’
San Francisco is repealing a ban on city-funded travel to 30 states that it says restrict abortion, voting and LGBTQ+ rights after determining the boycott is doing more harm than good.
The Board of Supervisors voted 7-4 on Tuesday to repeal a section of the city’s administrative code that prohibits staff from visiting and city departments from contracting with companies headquartered in the states, which include Texas, Florida and Ohio.
California, meanwhile, is considering the repeal of a similar law.
City supervisors will hold a second and final vote next Tuesday. Mayor London Breed is expected to sign the measure.
The progressive city passed the boycott in 2016, after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. At first, the boycott applied only to states that it considered restricted the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Later, the list was expanded to include states that limit access to voting and abortion.
The idea was to exert economic pressure on those conservative states. Instead, a report released last month by the city administrator concluded that the policy was raising costs and administrative burdens for the city. Because of restrictions, there were fewer bidders for city work and that ending the boycott might reduce contracting costs by 20% annually, the report concluded.
In addition, the city had approved hundreds of exemptions and waivers for some $800 million worth of contracts, the report said.
Meanwhile, “no states with restrictive LGBTQ rights, voting rights, or abortion policies have cited the city’s travel and contract bans as motivation for reforming their law,” the review concluded.
The measure “was a well-intentioned effort at values-based contracting but ultimately did not accomplish the social change it sought to effect,” Board President Aaron Peskin, who co-sponsored the repeal, said in a statement. “Instead, this onerous restriction has led to an uncompetitive bidding climate and created serious obstructions to everything from accessing emergency housing to being able to cost-effectively purchase the best products and contracts for the City.”
Intended Results Failed to Materialize
Scott Wiener, a former supervisor-turned-state senator who authored the original ban, agreed that the measure hadn’t produced the intended results.
“We believed a coalition of cities and states would form to create true consequences for states that pass these despicable, hateful laws,” the San Francisco Democrat said in a statement. “Yet, as it turned out, that coalition never formed, and the full potential impact of this policy never materialized. Instead, San Francisco is now penalizing businesses in other states — including LGBTQ-owned, women-owned, and people of color-owned businesses — for the sins of their radical right wing governments.”
In addition, city staff have been unable to fly to many states for cooperative work on issues ranging from HIV prevention to transportation, Wiener said.
Similar problems have led California to consider mothballing its own 2016 ban on state travel to states it deems discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
California now bans state-funded travel to nearly half of the country following a surge of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in mostly Republican-led states.
The prohibition means sports teams at public colleges and universities have had to find other ways to pay for road games in states like Arizona and Utah. And it has complicated some of the state’s other policy goals, like using state money to pay for people who live in other states to travel to California for abortions.
Last month, state Senate leader Toni Atkins announced legislation that would end the ban and replace it with an advertising campaign in those states that promotes acceptance and inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. The bill would set up a fund to pay for the campaign, which would accept private donations and state funding — if any is available.