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Newsom signs 1st LGBT bill into law as Assembly panel kills pro-gay sex registry bill

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Governor Gavin Newsom, shown in a file photo, signed his first LGBTQ bill Friday. It requires public schools to update the records for transgender and nonbinary students so that they match their legal name and gender identity. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Governor Gavin Newsom, shown in a file photo, signed his first LGBTQ bill Friday. It requires public schools to update the records for transgender and nonbinary students so that they match their legal name and gender identity. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland  

Governor Gavin Newsom Friday signed into law his first LGBT rights bill since becoming California's top executive in January. The legislation ensures that transgender students can obtain their school records and diplomas with their preferred name and gender pronoun.

Also Friday the Assembly Appropriations Committee killed a bill this session that aimed to ensure LGBT adolescents are treated the same as their heterosexual peers when faced with the possibility of being listed on the state's sex offender registry.

Its demise by the panel, which had an August 30 deadline to pass out legislation that was initially introduced by the Senate in order for it to be voted on by the full Assembly, elicited a blistering response from Equality California. The statewide LGBT advocacy group lashed out at the committee's chair, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), for blocking the bill.

It was a rare public sign of pique by EQCA, which in the past has usually either not commented when LGBT rights bills died in the appropriations committee, mainly due to cost concerns, or issued a statement vowing to work with the authors of the legislation to reintroduce the bills next session.

"Regrettably, this is not the first time that this committee, led by this chair, has stood in the way of LGBTQ civil rights legislation," stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. "We will not stop fighting for this common-sense fix because California's LGBTQ young people deserve better. We all deserve better."

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) is the lead author of the legislation, Senate Bill 145. It would grant judges discretion to decide if a person should have to register as a sex offender if that person is within 10 years of age of a consensual sexual partner between the age of 14 and 17 and engages in oral or anal intercourse with the younger person. Under current law, the person would automatically be added to the state's sex offender registry.

Yet, in cases where the consensual sex involved vaginal intercourse between an adolescent heterosexual couple, judges have the discretion to decide if listing on the sex offender registry is warranted. EQCA said Friday that it would continue to work with Wiener and other backers of SB 145 to pass it in 2020.

"Today, we are extremely disappointed with Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez for allowing an outdated law that discriminates against LGBTQ people to remain on the books," stated Zbur. "Law enforcement, sexual assault survivors and civil rights groups alike support this bipartisan bill because it would make California's sex offender registry more effective and end blatant anti-LGBTQ discrimination."

In a text to the Bay Area Reporter Friday, Wiener wrote, "While I'm grateful that the bill is still alive, I'm very disappointed that LGBT young people continue to experience extreme discrimination for another year. The sex offender registry destroys people's lives, and our community doesn't deserve this discrimination and criminalization."

Although the legislation had the support of the California District Attorney's Association and California Police Chief's Association, it also had its detractors within law enforcement circles. One of the public safety officials who had opposed the bill was Stanislaus County Sheriff Jeff Dirkse.

He was featured in an ad by Democratic Modesto City Councilman Mani Grewal, who is running for state Senate, falsely claiming that it would allow adults who molest children not to register as sex offenders.

Because Grewal is running against lesbian state Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) for the state's 5th Senate District seat in Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, his comments about SB 145 were seen as homophobic campaign tactics by EQCA and LGBT leaders. They have been seeking an apology from Grewal and asking those Democrats who have backed his Senate bid to rescind their endorsements.

As the B.A.R. reported earlier this month, Grewal removed the ad from his Facebook and YouTube pages following the complaints about it. But he has yet to issue a formal apology.

School records bill becomes law
As for the bill that Newsom signed Friday, Assembly Bill 711, it requires public schools to update the records for transgender and nonbinary students so that they match their legal name and gender identity. It will go into effect January 1.

EQCA sponsored the bill, as a person whose name doesn't match the name on their school transcript or diploma can face issues when applying for college, graduate programs, or a job. They could also be outed as transgender or nonbinary to employers and others.

"Making sure student records reflect a student's name is a no-brainer," stated Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), the bill's author. "This new law gives greater protections to transgender and nonbinary Californians and removes barriers to applying for college and employment opportunities."

Newsom signed the bill without comment along with a number of other bills.

In the coming weeks the Legislature is expected to send him additional LGBT legislation to sign, as a number of LGBT bills did make it out of the appropriation committees in both legislative chambers by today's deadline. Lawmakers will now vote on the bills in the coming weeks before they are sent to Newsom's desk.


See the B.A.R.'s September 5 issue for a report on the remaining LGBT bills before lawmakers this session.

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