New laws go into effect
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Three bills that were signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger go into effect Thursday, January 1 and will give new legal protections to California's foster youth and the state's LGBTs.
"We begin the new year knowing that all LGBT people, including youth and seniors, have better protections and rights than ever before," said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California, a sponsor of the legislation. "The new laws provide important protections for members of our community and reinforce our state's commitment to treat all people with respect and dignity under the law, regardless of their differences."
Assembly Bill 3015, the Foster Youth School Safety Education measure, authored by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, (D-Woodland Hills), helps protect foster youth against harassment and discrimination at school.
The bill was in response to the death of 15-year-old Lawrence King, who was shot by a fellow classmate at E.O. Green Junior High School in Oxnard last February.
King, who had begun to identify as gay, was reportedly the target of bullying and ridicule by some of his classmates, including Brandon McInerney, the alleged shooter. The victim was in the foster care system and lived in a group home for abused and neglected youth.
The new law educates foster care youth and their caregivers about existing California laws that protect students against bias. The bill was co-sponsored by EQCA, the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and the Gay-Straight Alliance Network.
Senate Bill 1729, authored by former Senator Carole Migden, (D-San Francisco), helps prevent bias in senior care facilities and nursing homes. It requires training for licensed health professionals about the unique needs of LGBT seniors.
"All too often LGBT seniors face social isolation and even outright discrimination by long-term care providers while in nursing homes and assisted living facilities," Migden, an out lesbian, said in a statement last fall.
Assembly Bill 2654, authored by former Assemblyman John Laird, (D-Santa Cruz), continues a multi-year effort by Laird, who's openly gay, and EQCA to modernize California's anti-discrimination laws.
The new law, called the Civil Rights Act of 2008, helps ensure that Californians have the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation.
The bill strengthens existing law to ensure protections based on gender, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, marital status, and sexual orientation. The bill clarifies sections of law that prohibit discrimination in insurance and government services and activities.