LGBTQ bills advance in California Legislature

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 4, 2021
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A bevy of LGBTQ legislation is advancing in the California Legislature. Photo: Courtesy Twitter
A bevy of LGBTQ legislation is advancing in the California Legislature. Photo: Courtesy Twitter

While two bills regarding health care for transgender and intersex individuals were tabled this year in light of limited support, a bevy of LGBTQ legislation is advancing in the California Legislature. The package of 11 bills survived the legislative process in their house of origin and is now being taken up by the other chamber.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) opted to make his Equitable and Inclusive UC Healthcare Act into a two-year bill in late May when it became clear it could not be passed this year. His Senate Bill 379 seeks to ensure that the University of California only contracts with facilities that allow the UC staff in those facilities to provide gender-affirming and reproductive health care.

In early April Wiener had also put on the back burner this legislative cycle his SB 225, known as the Bodily Autonomy, Dignity and Choice Act, that aims to postpone elective surgery on intersex children until they are 12 years of age and can take part in making such a medical decision. Wiener and intersex advocates have attempted to get such a law passed since 2019 and will now see if it makes sense to try to revive SB 225 in the legislative session that begins next January.

For this legislative session lawmakers had until June 4 to see their legislation survive floor votes in either the Assembly or Senate. The bills must now be passed by the other chamber and sent to the governor's desk for signage by September 10.

Moving forward this year are a number of trans-focused bills, such as Assembly Bill 439 that would allow for the option of nonbinary as the gender identity on death certificates. Authored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), the bill is scheduled for a vote Wednesday, June 9, before the Senate Health Committee.

A bill aimed at protecting the privacy rights of people receiving sensitive health care services, such as gender-affirming care, AB 1184, is to be taken up by the Senate's judiciary and health committees. It is one of two trans rights bills Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) is carrying this year.

His AB 245, which would prohibit public universities from deadnaming trans and nonbinary students on their diplomas and academic records, is awaiting votes before the Senate education and judiciary committees.

"Making sure college records reflect a student's name is a no-brainer," stated Chiu. "Transgender and nonbinary students face many challenges, and this simple policy will ensure they have one less barrier to overcome."

AB 218, which is aimed at allowing Californians to update their marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children to accurately reflect their legal name and gender, made it out of the Assembly and was sent to the Senate June 1. Gay freshman Assemblyman Chris Ward (D-San Diego) revived the legislation after Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed similar legislation last fall due to concerns it would inadvertently out transgender and nonbinary individuals.

As the B.A.R. reported at the time, it was only once the previous bill, authored by lesbian former state Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton), had reached Newsom's desk that state health officials flagged a problem with its implementation they said could result in individuals who sought to update certain records publicly revealing they had transitioned their gender.

With his AB 218, Ward is aiming to allow transgender people to request that their old marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children with inaccurate information about their gender identity be sealed and have new documents issued. It would be similar to current state law that allows such a person's old birth certificate to be sealed and a new one issued as an original to both protect the person's privacy and respect their identity, as noted in the legislative analysis of the bill.

Another bill having to do with gender identity is SB 272 authored by gay state Senator John Laird (D- Santa Cruz), which is now being heard in the Assembly. It will update "archaic gender-specific pronouns" used in the state's vehicle code to refer to the California Highway Patrol commissioner, now led by a woman, as well as throughout the state's insurance code.

Also making it out of the Assembly at the start of Pride Month was gay Assemblyman Evan Low's (D-Campbell) AB 1084, which would require retailers with 500 or more employees to remove signs for gender in toy and childcare sections, or require the retailers to provide a gender-neutral retail section for the items. In a compromise to move the bill forward, Low and co-author Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) agreed to remove language referring to children's clothing sections in the bill when it is taken up by the state Senate.

"We are limiting their ability to express themselves, we are limiting their ability to learn, and, really, we are limiting their ability to become the leaders that we need them to be down the road in STEM and engineering," stated Garcia, who during the Assembly floor debate on the bill disclosed she was discouraged from playing with Lincoln Logs as a girl because they were considered a "boys' toy."

SB 357, the Safer Streets for All Act co-authored by Wiener and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), passed out of the Senate June 1 and is now to be taken up by the Assembly. It would repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, the law that criminalizes loitering for the intent to engage in sex work.

It would also allow those convicted of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, particularly the Black women and transgender individuals often targeted under the law, to seal their records. A similar bill became law in the state of New York this year.

"Sex workers are workers, and they deserve respect and safety," stated Wiener. "We must work toward a future where people — especially the most marginalized — aren't criminalized because of who they are and what they look like. Anti-sex workers loitering laws are deeply pernicious, and they need to be repealed. I'm so grateful to my colleagues for understanding why this SB 357 is so necessary."

Senator Lena A. Gonzalez's (D-Long Beach) SB 283, aimed at strengthening the Equal Insurance HIV Act of 2020, is now before the Assembly. It would impose a prohibition as of January 1, 2023 on a life or disability insurance insurer from considering an applicant's occupation in determining whether to require an HIV test and clarifies that limiting benefits payable for a loss caused or contributed to by HIV is allowed if it was part of the original underwriting risk. It also clarifies that the misdemeanor for willful, negligent, or malicious disclosure of HIV test results to a third party is punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 364 days.

Two other bills concern older LGBTQ adults, such as Laird's SB 258, which aims to include older people with HIV as part of the population of "greatest social need" when it comes to programs and services administered by the California Department of Aging. It is awaiting a vote before the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee.

The other bill is AB 465 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys), which would require that professional fiduciaries receive LGBTQ+ cultural competency and sensitivity training during their education and licensing process. Private professional fiduciaries provide critical services to older adults and people with disabilities, from managing their clients' daily care, housing, and medical needs to ensuring their bills are paid and managing their investments. It is to be taken up Monday, June 7, by the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development.

Also waiting to be taken up by state Senators is AB 1041, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), that would expand the definition of "family member" for purposes of family and sick leave to allow covered workers to take time off to care for someone designated by the employee at the time of the request. It takes into account LGBTQ people's chosen family members who aren't biologically or legally related and other household units that don't abide by a "nuclear family" model so that such individuals can get time off to provide health care and other assistance to their loved ones.

Equality California Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang praised lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate for helping to advance most of the legislation that the LGBTQ statewide advocacy organization is co-sponsoring this year.

"Each and every one of these bills represents a giant leap of progress for our LGBTQ+ community — specifically trans and nonbinary folks, chosen families, people struggling with addiction and sex workers," stated Hoang.

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