California Governor Newsom signs HIV-related bills into law

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday July 23, 2021
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Governor Gavin Newsom signed three bills July 23 backed by LGBTQ advocates, two of which improve the lives of people living with HIV. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland
Governor Gavin Newsom signed three bills July 23 backed by LGBTQ advocates, two of which improve the lives of people living with HIV. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

Two bills aimed at improving the lives of Californians living with HIV are now law. More male-centric references in the state's codes also will be updated to use more gender-inclusive language.

It is due to Governor Gavin Newsom signing three pieces of legislation on Friday (July 23). As is his customary practice, he did so without comment.

Senate Bill 283, authored by Senator Lena A. Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), strengthens the Equal Insurance HIV Act of 2020. It imposes 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.

"Supporting Californians living with HIV today - no Californian should have disability or life insurance income denied simply because of their status," tweeted Gonzalez when the bill passed out of the Legislature in early July.

It also 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. And the law also makes clear that the misdemeanor for willful, negligent, or malicious disclosure of HIV test results to a third party is now punishable by imprisonment for a period not to exceed 364 days.

The other HIV-related bill, SB 258, specifies that older people with HIV are to be part of the population of "greatest social need" when it comes to programs and services administered by the California Department of Aging. Gay state Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), a founder and former executive director of an AIDS agency in his coastal city, authored the legislation.

"When I was Santa Cruz AIDS Agency Director, it was our dream to have people living with HIV age into the senior category," noted Laird when his bill was passed by the state Legislature earlier this month. "To be very clear, this group was not supposed to grow old. While the drug cocktail transformed the fight against HIV, and there are more HIV positive seniors than ever before, older people living with HIV face a number of behavioral health challenges in addition to physical illnesses."

Laird added that, "By easing the burden of connecting this vulnerable population to supportive aging services and programs, this bill provides another life line to assist this uniquely disadvantaged group."

The governor also signed into law Laird's SB 272, which 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. It parallels another bill Newsom signed into law in early July authored by Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), who signed on as a co-author to Laird's legislation.

Bauer-Kahan's AB 378 systematically goes through laws related to the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state controller, treasurer, insurance commissioner, and board of equalization to make all references to the gender of the officer gender neutral. Currently, most parts of the state code refer to these constitutional office holders as only "he" or "him."

Newsom has now signed into law five pieces of legislation addressing issues of importance to the LGBTQ community, whether it be health-related matters or addressing gender-based equality. Earlier this month he signed Bauer-Kahan's AB 439 to allow for deceased Californians who are nonbinary to be identified as such on their death certificates.

More LGBTQ-related bills pending

Seven more LGBTQ-related bills are still making their way through the approval process this legislative session. One of the bills would protect the privacy rights of people receiving sensitive health care services, such as gender-affirming care. AB 1184 is one of two trans rights bills Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) is carrying this year.

His AB 245 would prohibit public universities from deadnaming trans and nonbinary students on their diplomas and academic records. AB 218 would allow Californians to update their marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children to accurately reflect their legal name and gender.

Gay freshman Assemblyman Chris Ward (D-San Diego) revived the legislation after Newsom vetoed similar legislation last fall due to concerns it would inadvertently out transgender and nonbinary individuals.

Gay Assemblyman Evan Low's AB 1084 would require retailers with 500 or more employees to remove signs for gender in toy and child care 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 not include children's clothing sections in the bill.

AB 465 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) 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.

AB 1041, authored by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), 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.

SB 357, the Safer Streets for All Act co-authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose), 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.

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