Remaining CA LGBTQ bills survive 1st chamber votes

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 2, 2023
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State Senator Josh Newman, left, and Assemblymembers Luz Rivas and Miguel Santiago all had their LGBTQ-related bills pass out of their houses of origin. Photos: Courtesy the lawmakers' offices
State Senator Josh Newman, left, and Assemblymembers Luz Rivas and Miguel Santiago all had their LGBTQ-related bills pass out of their houses of origin. Photos: Courtesy the lawmakers' offices

Another six bills related to LGBTQ issues or health concerns are moving on this legislative session in the California Legislature. Lawmakers in the bills' houses of origin adopted them by their June 3 deadline to do so this year.

All 20 pieces of legislation the Bay Area Reporter is tracking this year are moving forward. Many build on LGBTQ laws previously enacted by state lawmakers that focused on issues impacting public schools and foster youth, with several others related to ending the HIV pandemic.

The state Senate voted 33-6 May 31 to pass Senate Bill 760 by state Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton), which would require all K-12 schools in California to provide at least one accessible all-gender restroom for students "to use safely and comfortably during school hours." It is believed to be "first-of-its-kind" legislation, according to LGBTQ advocates, and comes as lawmakers in other states restrict people's usage of public bathrooms to those that align with the sex they were given at birth.

"Let's face it - at some point during a typical 8-hour school day, everyone is going to have to go," noted Newman in introducing his bill. "By requiring all California K-12 schools to provide gender-inclusive restroom facilities on campus, we'll ensure the well-being of our LGBTQ+ and nonbinary students and ensure safer school communities for everyone."

Should SB 760 become law, every school district, county office of education, and charter school in California would need to provide at least one all-gender restroom for pupils to use by July 1, 2025. It would need to be clearly identified with signage as being open to all genders and be easily accessible during school hours and student functions.

Meanwhile, Assembly Bill 1163 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) would require various state agencies and departments to revise their public-use forms, by January 1, 2025, to be more inclusive of individuals who identify as transgender, gender-nonconforming, or intersex. It would also require the impacted agencies and departments to collect data pertaining to the specific needs of the transgender, gender-nonconforming, or intersex community, including, but not limited to, information relating to medical care, mental health disparities, and population size. The Assembly passed it June 1 64-0.

Rivas celebrated her bill being passed on the start of Pride Month in a tweet, hailing that "the bill is moving to the Senate!"

Also passed out of the Assembly, by a 66-0 vote on June 1, was AB 1487 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles). It aims to establish the Transgender, Gender Variant, and Intersex Wellness Reentry Fund to provide grants for reentry programming "specifically to support transgender, gender variant, and intersex people who have experienced carceral systems."

It includes no funding, though the bill's backers would like to secure at least $5 million for it. It mirrors the state fund Santiago pushed to create that pays for trans health care services several years ago, which Newsom appropriated $13 million for in 2021.

Santiago also hailed his bill being passed at the start of Pride Month in a tweet.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) has authored two bills this session to further protect paid leave provisions for LGBTQ people and others who need to care for their chosen family members, i.e. people they are not related to but have close bonds with and care for when they are sick. Her AB 518 by would give workers the right to receive Paid Family Leave wage replacement benefits while on leave to assist their chosen family.

Her AB 524 would make it unlawful for employers to refuse to hire, fire, demote, or take other adverse employment action against workers because of their responsibilities to their biological or chosen family members. Since January California family leave provisions cover workers with chosen family due to the enactment of Wicks' AB 1041 that was passed by lawmakers last year.

The Assembly passed AB 518 64-0 on May 31. It passed AB 524 June 1 by a 47-15 vote.

"They will ensure workers can afford to take leave for chosen & extended family members & protect family caregivers from discrimination at work. On to the Senate!" noted the organization Equal Rights Advocates in a tweet.

AB 1645, authored by gay Assemblymember Rick Chavez Zbur (D-West Hollywood), would close loopholes and strengthen protections in existing law to ensure that California health insurers continue to provide free and complete coverage for preventive services like PrEP and testing for sexually transmitted infections. The Assembly passed AB 1645 by a 64-10 vote May 31.

It is one of two bills moving forward this session aimed at ensuring Californians can access to PrEP in light of recent court decisions that have ruled health insurers don't need to cover the HIV prevention medicine. The Assembly will now take up SB 339 authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

It would increase the amount of PrEP that pharmacists are authorized to provide without a doctor's prescription and require health plans to reimburse pharmacists for PrEP services. The Senate passed SB 339 in mid-May.

Prop 8 bill

Lawmakers have yet to vote on an additional bill related to LGBTQ rights. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 5, introduced by gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino), would place on the 2024 general election ballot a repeal of Proposition 8 that defines marriage in the California constitution as being between a man and a woman.

Voters adopted it in 2008, and though a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 invalidated it, there is concern that the current conservative majority on the court could issue a new decision once again outlawing same-sex marriage as a federal right. The "zombie" Prop 8 language remains in the state constitution and this amendment, should voters pass it next year, would remove it.

Low and a number of his legislative colleagues will gather on the West Steps of the California State Capitol Monday, June 5, to announce the actual language to repeal Prop 8. It requires a two-thirds vote to be adopted, with the Assembly expected to pass it by the end of the month.

The Senate is expected to pass it later this summer, but the chamber has until June 30, 2024 to vote for it in order to get it onto the November ballot that fall. ACA 5 doesn't need to go before Governor Gavin Newsom to sign.

As for the 2023 bills that do need a gubernatorial signature to become law, legislators have until September 14 to pass them. But with California facing a budget shortfall of upward of $34.5 billion this year, it remains to be seen if the LGBTQ bills with fiscal costs will survive Newsom's veto pen should they make it to his desk.

For example, Rivas' AB 1163 is pegged to cost between $3 and $5 million for state agencies to update the forms they use, while Wicks' paid leave bill AB 518 is estimated to need $3.7 million to launch its provisions then fall down to about $900,000 annually to for state agencies to oversee.

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