Political Notebook: CA budget funds LGBTQ college support, archives, and trans immigrant programs

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday July 10, 2024
Share this Post:
Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed the state budget that includes funding for LGBTQ programs. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office<br>
Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed the state budget that includes funding for LGBTQ programs. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office

Amid a dreary fiscal year in California, LGBTQ archival groups and Bay Area service providers who work with transgender immigrants saw state legislators include funding to address their fiscal needs in the budget signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Also included was a $10 million allocation to support LGBTQ community college students.

LGBTQ history museums and archives across the Golden State will share in $750,000 added into the fiscal year 2024-2025 budget Newsom signed June 29. Trans immigrant programs in San Francisco are set to receive $250,000 in funding.

The allocations were among the budget priorities pushed by the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) also championed them as chair of his chamber's budget committee this session.

"In a horrible budget year with a huge budget deficit, we were able to deliver some key priorities for the community," Wiener told the Bay Area Reporter in a July 8 phone interview. "I am grateful to our LGBTQ caucus. I would say the LGBTQ caucus members worked together to make sure we were able to deliver for the community."

State lawmakers had to grapple with a $46.8 billion shortfall in balancing this year's budget. Thus, the $297.9 billion spending plan included $16 billion in funding reductions among the package of savings hashed out by legislators and the governor.

Newsom thanked the legislative leaders for helping to deliver a "sound and balanced" budget proposal.

"This is a responsible budget that prepares for the future while investing in foundational programs that benefit millions of Californians every day," stated Newsom. "Thanks to careful stewardship of the budget over the past few years, we're able to meet this moment while protecting our progress on housing, homelessness, education, health care and other priorities that matter deeply to Californians."

As outlined in Wiener's Senate Bill 108, which Newsom signed into law last month as part of a package of budget bills, the Legislature intends to appropriate $10 million for LGBTQ community college students as a one-time allocation in the 2025—26 fiscal year.

The statewide chancellor's office for community colleges is to award grants upward of $900,000 to the participating districts "based on the proportional share of students they serve and equity metrics to ensure that small rural colleges are also able to access the grants." The funds can be used over a five-year period per the legislation.

Wiener told the B.A.R. it is not due to the enactment of any laws. For instance, a bill signed by former governor Jerry Brown in 2017 required California community colleges to include the needs of their LGBTQ students in their equity plans.

Rather, in 2021, the Los Angeles Community College District asked the LGBTQ caucus to support a pilot project it wanted to launch on its campuses. In 2023, the out lawmakers supported extending it for three years and expanded its scope, noted Wiener, thus the funding is needed for the extension of the pilot.

"Our caucus strongly supports this pilot program to ensure LGBTQ community college students have the best possible experience," Wiener told the B.A.R. "This funding helps community colleges create a sense of belonging and community for LGBTQ students."

Trustee David Vela, the first gay Latino to serve on the Southern California community college district board, was instrumental in getting the pilot project started. In a statement to the B.A.R., he expressed his board's gratitude for the ongoing state investment in the LGBTQ students' futures.

"We are thrilled to see the inclusion of $10 million in the California state budget to support LGBTQ students at all the California community colleges. The remarkable success of our Los Angeles Community College District (LACCD) 2021 pilot project across our nine colleges demonstrated the positive impact of this targeted funding on our students," stated Vela. "This allocation is a significant step forward in providing desperately needed resources, which includes safe zones and pride centers for all LGBTQ students in California."

As the chancellor's office had noted about the $10 million funding allocations in past budgets, the funds can be used for LGBTQ+ centers, development of safe zones, learning communities, clubs, curriculum development, workshops, and other efforts based on best practices for serving LGBTQ+ students. In an emailed reply to the B.A.R., Trustee Sue Chan, president-elect of the California Community College Trustees, noted the chancellor's office will award the grants, though do to the limited amount, "only a handful" of the state's 116 community colleges will receive them.

Nonetheless, Chan told the B.A.R. that the California Community Colleges "are appreciative" that Wiener saw that the funding was once again included in the budget.

"We acknowledge and thank Senator Wiener for his commitment to assist our Community College LGBTQ+ students with funding to create spaces where they feel safe, valued, seen, and supported," noted Chan, who chairs the Board of Trustees for the Ohlone Community College District in the East Bay. "This funding will enable us to provide our LGBTQ+ students with services specifically designed to assist them succeed in their California Community College journey."

Archival groups

The LGBTQ caucus initially had sought $1.5 million for the various LGBTQ archival groups around the state. In the end, they were able to secure half of that amount, similar to the funding they secured in 2022, as the B.A.R. reported at the time.

The $750,000 allocation will again be distributed via the California State Library. It is to be used for the archival groups' operational expenses. (See related story.)

"This is a continuation of the funding," noted Wiener. "In the past, a few different times we were able to get statewide funding to support LGBTQ archives in San Francisco and other cities."

Immigrant programs

According to a funding request document shared by the caucus and Wiener's office, the $250,000 allocation for the Center for Immigrant Protection based in San Francisco was sought by the California Coalition of Transgender Immigrants. It is to be shared by three programs, with the bulk of the funds, $150,000, to be used for a trans immigrant asylee program.

A trans intersectional unity program is to receive $50,000, while the remaining $50,000 is to go toward a trans emerging leadership and artist program. ParivarBayArea and the San Francisco-based groups the LGBT Asylum Project and El/La Para TransLatinas had advocated for the funding.

"That's wonderful news," said Anjali Rimi, a trans woman who co-founded Parivar and is its president, when told by the B.A.R. Monday that the money had been included in the finalized budget. "I am absolutely excited and grateful."

Parivar and the LGBT Asylum Project announced last fall that they had partnered together to launch the Center for Immigrant Protection to address the needs of the LGBTQ immigrant community. Rimi said the state funding allocation will help the center and the community-based organizations it works with to provide services statewide.

"We are grateful to Senator Wiener, the LGBTQ legislative caucus and everyone who was looking at this after many years of budget asks," said Rimi, explaining that the trio of programs are part of the "core of our work and existence. This allows us to go statewide with that effort, at least that is the journey."

Asked why it was important for the funds for the trans programs to be included in the budget, Wiener told the B.A.R. it is critical for California to provide resources to the immigrant and trans communities as both have come under attack this election year. Republican politicians, and even some Democratic public officials, have called for stronger controls to limit the number of immigrants entering the U.S.

Meanwhile, conservative leaders in statehouses across the country have rolled back rights for trans residents of their states. The legislative attacks led California lawmakers in 2022, under a bill Wiener authored, to declare the state a sanctuary for trans individuals and their families seeking gender-affirming care outlawed in their home states.

"If you think of who are the two groups that the right wing is attacking the most, it is immigrants and trans people," said Wiener. "We are seeing a wave of hatred against trans people and immigrants in this country. It is imperative for California to stand by these communities."

Not included in the final budget was an initial ask by the LGBTQ caucus of $5 million to fund the installation of a new ADA-compliant main stairway and a new escalator to access the entrance to the Castro Muni Station from Harvey Milk Plaza in San Francisco's LGBTQ neighborhood. The funding is included in a $25 million allocation toward the rebuild of the public parklet in a bond measure that Mayor London Breed and the city's Board of Supervisors plan to put before city voters in November.

Political Notes, the notebook's online companion, returns Monday, July 15.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

Got a tip on LGBTQ politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected]

Never miss a story! Keep up to date on the latest news, arts, politics, entertainment, and nightlife.

Sign up for the Bay Area Reporter's free weekday email newsletter. You'll receive our newsletters and special offers from our community partners.

Support California's largest LGBTQ newsroom. Your one-time, monthly, or annual contribution advocates for LGBTQ communities. Amplify a trusted voice providing news, information, and cultural coverage to all members of our community, regardless of their ability to pay -- Donate today!