New bills address
gender ID, LGBT data
by Seth Hemmelgarn
California lawmakers have introduced several LGBT-related bills that address issues ranging from making name changes easier for transgender people to getting a count of gay residents.
The statewide LGBT lobbying group Equality California is sponsoring five of the proposals up for action in the 2013-14 legislative session. In a March 13 statement, EQCA Executive Director John O'Connor called the package "broad and fundamental."
O'Connor said working with the bills' authors, "we will continue to advance our mission of full equality for LGBT people and nothing less."
Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) authored Assembly Bill 1121, the Name Changes and Birth/Death Certificates Act, to simplify the processes people have to go through to legally change their name and gender.
"The bill would remove the costly newspaper publication requirement for name changes that can be unaffordable for low-income transgender people and can put their privacy and safety at risk," an EQCA news release says.
In an email, Atkins, an out lesbian, said, "I introduced AB 1121 after community members told me how time consuming and financially burdensome it can be to have to go to court to ensure that one's basic identity documents reflect one's gender identity. It can cost as much as $400 and take many months."
The proposal also would ensure that a transgender Californian's gender identity is honored when they die.
"I have heard stories that despite a deceased person's having undergone transition and lived consistent with their gender identity, there are occasions when the family has refused to accept that gender identity and instead insisted that the death certificate list the wrong sex," Atkins said. "AB 1121 will prevent that."
She added, "The newspaper publication aspect [of the bill] is intended to only apply to transgender people."
The Transgender Law Center, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, is co-sponsoring AB 1121.
"Many of the calls we get on our legal helpline are from people who need assistance with the complicated court procedures required to change a person's name and gender in California," TLC legal director Ilona Turner said in a statement, "This bill will simplify those processes to make them less expensive and provide more protection for people's privacy and safety."
Another bill addresses data. Senate Bill 280, the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Data Collection Act, takes on the lack of accurate information on LGBT Californians. Openly gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and state Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) authored the bill.
EQCA calls the issue "one of the biggest barriers to effective health care for LGBT Californians," since the lack of good data "means that too often, state services are allocated based on scant information about the size, geography, and diversity of the LGBT population."
Out gay Assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) is taking on an aspect of health care, too, with AB 496, the LGBT Cultural Competency for Health Care Providers Act. The proposal is designed to improve health care delivery for LGBTs by increasing cultural training for doctors, dentists, and other providers.
EQCA noted that many LGBTs report delaying care or avoiding the system altogether due to providers' lack of understanding of LGBT issues.
People in the LGBT community ought to receive "medical care that is appropriate and specific to [their] needs," Gordon said in an interview. He said he wants a task force on cultural competency. A similar panel that issued a report 10 years ago cost about $100,000, Gordon said, but he suggested funding could be sought from professional boards to help pay for it.
EQCA previously announced its backing of Lara's SB 323, the Youth Equality Act, which would remove a special tax emption for youth organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America that fail to comply with the state's anti-discrimination policy, and Assemblyman Phil Ting's (D-San Francisco) AB 362, which would end the state taxation of the reimbursement pay that employers are providing to their workers in same-sex relationships. The bill would apply to both private sector workers and employees of public entities.
Other out lawmakers have also proposed bills.
State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced SB 635, which could lead to expanded bar hours.
Current state law limits the sale of alcohol between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. for on- and off-sale establishments. Leno's proposal would allow a county to submit a local plan to the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to extend hours up to 4 a.m. The expanded hours would apply only to on-sale establishments such as restaurants and nightclubs. It would not apply to off-sale establishments such as liquor stores.
"This legislation would allow destination cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego to start local conversations about the possibility of expanding nightlife and the benefits it could provide the community by boosting jobs, tourism and local tax revenue," Leno stated.
A report last year by San Francisco officials found that the nightlife industry generated $4.2 billion in spending in 2010 and at least $55 million in tax revenue for the city.
Leno introduced a similar bill in 2004, when he was in the Assembly, but it died in committee. That proposal would have extended hours to 4 a.m. for all of San Francisco. The new bill gives cities and counties in the state the choice to work with the ABC to develop a plan for extended hours.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) is also invoking the ABC in one of his proposals.
Ammiano's AB 473 would establish a Division of Medical Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement within the ABC. The unit would be responsible for monitoring supply and sales of medical cannabis.
In 1996, voters passed Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, which regulates medical marijuana. Many people use the drug to help ease pain related to HIV and AIDS and other illnesses.
"Where marijuana rules are concerned, California has been in chaos for way too long," Ammiano stated. "Cities have been looking for state guidance, dispensaries feel at the mercy of changing rules, and patients who need medical cannabis are uncertain about how their legitimate medical needs will be filled. This is a concrete plan that will keep medical marijuana safe. We will get it into the right hands and keep it out of the wrong hands."
ABC spokesman John Carr said his agency hasn't taken a position on either SB 635 or AB 473.
"ABC will be available to provide facts and information to the Legislature as the legislative process moves forward," Carr said in an email.
Ammiano is also introducing a resolution asking the federal government to give the state "breathing room to get its medical cannabis house in order without the threat of new widespread prosecutions of medical providers," according to his office.
Starting in 2011, the Obama administration has worked to crack down on medical cannabis dispensaries in San Francisco and other cities around the state.