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Newsom signs LGBTQ data collection, trans prisoners bills

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Governor Gavin Newsom signed several LGBTQ bills Saturday. Photo: Courtesy Facebook
Governor Gavin Newsom signed several LGBTQ bills Saturday. Photo: Courtesy Facebook  

Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday signed legislation strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ Californians, including a measure to track the effects of COVID-19 on the community.

The other bills include establishing the Transgender and Wellness Equity Fund and one requiring the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex (TGI) individuals in a manner that matches their gender identity while supporting health and safety.

"California has some of the strongest pro LGBTQ+ laws in the nation and with the bills signed today, our march toward equality takes an additional step forward," Newsom stated in a September 26 release. "These new laws will help us better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community, establish a new fund to support our transgender sisters and brothers and advance inclusive and culturally competent efforts that uphold the dignity of all Californians, regardless of who you are or who you love."

Senate Bill 932 by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) aligns with emergency regulations announced by the California Department of Public Health in July requiring better and more timely collection and reporting of communicable disease data from providers and laboratories on a patient's gender identity and sexual orientation.

Wiener had long fought for such data collection, and Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, was critical of the governor earlier this year over the state's inability to collect such data on COVID patients.

This legislation will provide public health officials with more information on patients who identify as LGBTQ, which is essential to addressing health inequities and designing public health interventions that help California's diverse communities.

"Thanks to Governor Newsom and Senator Wiener's leadership, California is a beacon of hope to LGBTQ+ people everywhere," EQCA executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur stated in a release from the organization. "Nearly four decades after I watched the government look the other way as our community was devastated by the AIDS crisis, I am proud to say California has become the first state to mandate the collection of voluntary LGBTQ+ data for all reportable communicable diseases."

The governor also signed SB 132 by Wiener requiring CDCR to house transgender, gender-nonconforming and intersex people according to their own sense of where they will be safest. This new law will require CDCR to record the individual's self-reported gender identity, gender pronouns, and honorifics throughout an inmate's term.

"Thank you Governor Newsom for once again proving you are a champion for LGBTQ people," stated Wiener, chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. "SB 132 is lifesaving legislation that will protect trans people in prison, particularly trans women who are subject to high levels of assault and harassment in men's facilities. And, SB 932 ensures our community will no longer be invisible, and that we will be counted by our public health system. Today is a great day for California's LGBTQ community and yet another example of California's deep commitment to LGBTQ equality."

EQCA also praised Newsom's action on SB 132.

"I recently had the chance to hear from currently incarcerated transgender people about their experiences and need for SB 132 — this bill is going to save lives," Zbur stated. "We are so grateful to our coalition partners — many of whom are trans and currently or formerly incarcerated — who led this fight from the beginning. Today is a monumental victory for them and for all LGBTQ+ people."

In addition to EQCA, SB 132 is co-sponsored by the TransLatin@ Coalition, TGI Justice Project, Transgender Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union of California, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Medina Orthwein LLP law firm.

AB 2218 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) establishes the Transgender Wellness and Equity Fund. The fund will assist organizations serving people that identify as transgender, gender-nonconforming, or intersex, and help create or fund TGI-specific housing programs and partnerships with hospitals, health care clinics and other medical providers to provide TGI-focused health care.

The TransLatin@ Coalition fought for AB 2218 for months, rallying support and testifying at hearings.

After numerous hearings — and at one point looking like it would not pass due to its $15 million price tag — AB 2218 was stripped of its funding requirement and allowed to move forward.

"This is a critical measure for our transgender community and I thank Governor Newsom for his steadfast leadership in signing AB 2218," Santiago stated. "California's TGI community has long faced obstacles in receiving safe, nondiscriminatory, comprehensive care, and COVID-19 has exacerbated these existing health care disparities. This bill will help create programs where TGI-identified people can receive safe, competent, and inclusive health care and other social services."

Recognizing that too many Californians who are HIV-positive experience heightened levels of discrimination by insurers, the governor signed SB 1255 by Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) and the Senate Committee on Insurance to end the practice of insurance companies discriminating against individuals because of their HIV status.

The bills signed Saturday build on the governor's signature of SB 145 by Wiener, which prevents discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in sex crime convictions.

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