CA legislators send Newsom LGBTQ bills to sign

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 10, 2021
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Several LGBTQ-related bills were sent to Governor Gavin Newsom September 10, the last day of the legislative session. Photo: AP
Several LGBTQ-related bills were sent to Governor Gavin Newsom September 10, the last day of the legislative session. Photo: AP

In the final days of their 2021 legislative session, California lawmakers approved a bevy of legislation addressing various sexual orientation and gender identity concerns from the mailbox and coroner's office to the toy store aisle. It is now up to Governor Gavin Newsom to sign them into law or veto the bills.

One of the bills, Assembly Bill 1184, aims to protect the privacy rights of people receiving sensitive health care services, such as gender-affirming care. It is one of two trans rights bills Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) carried this year.

His AB 245 prohibiting public universities from deadnaming trans and nonbinary students — that is using their former names they were given based on the sex they were assigned at birth — on their diplomas and academic records is also waiting for Newsom's signature. It was sent to the governor's desk September 2, kicking off the 12-day deadline for him to sign it.

Sponsored by Planned Parenthood, AB 1184 prohibits health care providers from disclosing services a patient receives under an insurance policy held by another person, such as a parent or spouse. Thus, a youth receiving transgender health care under their parent's policy can request their health provider not inform them their child is receiving such care.

The legislation establishes automatic confidentiality by putting that burden on health insurance companies rather than patients, as Chiu explained in a June guest opinion piece for the Bay Area Reporter. In addition to gender-affirming care, behavioral health care and substance use care are also covered by the legislation, noted Chiu. The Senate passed AB 1184 on a 29-8 vote with three members abstaining September 8 and the Assembly approved the amended bill September 9 on a 61-14 vote with five members not voting.

"Patients should not forgo the health care they need because they are worried about their privacy being violated," stated Chiu. "By protecting privacy, this bill is a simple step that will go a long way towards keeping California patients safe and healthy."

AB 218 allows Californians to update their marriage certificates and the birth certificates of their children to accurately reflect their legal name and gender in a manner that protects their privacy. 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.

It passed out of the Senate September 8 on a 29-9 vote with two abstentions, and the Assembly approved the amended bill September 9 on a 60-13 vote with seven members not voting.

"LGBTQ Californians deserve to know their privacy is respected and secure when dealing with any institution," tweeted Ward, who urged Newsom to sign the revised bill this year.

AB 1094, authored by Assemblyman Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno), enhances the collection of public health data about violent deaths, including homicide and suicide, so that it includes stats related to the LGBTQ+ community. The Senate approved it 39-0 with one abstention September 1, and the Assembly passed the amended version the next day on a 71-0 vote with eight members not voting.

It will establish a pilot program to train coroners and medical examiners on how to collect SOGI data in all cases of violent death so there is a better understanding of disparities in the mortality rate in the LGBTQ community that could lead to policies addressing those disparities at the county level.

"Passing #AB1094 is a huge victory and, if signed, means CA will enhance the collection of public health data about violent deaths for our #LGBTQ+ community," tweeted Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization that co-sponsored the bill with the LGBTQ youth agency The Trevor Project.

Gay Assemblyman Evan Low's AB 1084 requires retailers with 500 or more employees to remove signs for gender in toy and child care sections or provide a gender-neutral retail section for the items. In a compromise to move the bill out of the Legislature, Low and co-author Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) agreed not to include children's clothing sections in the bill. It passed out of the Assembly September 2 on a 49-16 vote with 14 members not voting; the day prior the Senate had approved it on a 29-9 vote with two abstentions.

AB 465 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) requires 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 passed out of the Assembly on a 72-0 vote with seven abstentions September 1 after the Senate approved an amended version 31-1 with eight members not voting on August 30. The bill was sent to Newsom's desk September 8, while those passed in recent days should be presented to the governor in the coming days.

The last remaining LGBTQ-related bill to pass was Senate Bill 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). It will repeal California Penal Code Section 653.22, the law that criminalizes loitering for the intent to engage in sex work. It also allows 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.

It passed out of the Senate June 6 on a 29-9 vote with two abstentions and survived several committee votes in the Assembly. Friday, September 10, it cleared the lower chamber on a 41-26 vote.

While those opposed to the bill claimed it would put child sex traffic victims at risk, despite the fact a 2016 bill adopted into law decriminalized loitering for prostitution for minors under the age of 18, proponents argued it was time to do the same for adult women whose lives have been negatively impacted from being charged for such a crime.

Noting that the crime has largely targeted Black women, especially those who are transgender, Assemblyman Isaac Bryan (D-Baldwin Hills) implored his colleagues to pass SB 357.

"We made a mistake and we need to roll it back," he said of the loitering section in the penal code.

Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) stressed that SB 357 only applies to people over the age of 18 and also passionately argued for its passage.

"We all want to end human trafficking," she said, but noted "the LGBT community is not safer with this law on the books. As a long-time ally of the LGBTQ community, I am proud to stand for this bill today."

Family leave bill shelved for now

One LGBTQ-related bill was shelved Thursday at the request of its author, Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), and will be revived in January for the 2022 legislative session. AB 1041 aimed to 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.

The bill 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. Among its co-authors were Ward and Wiener, who requested it be moved to the inactive file as it had been pending in the Senate.

The San Francisco LGBTQ-focused nonprofit Our Family Coalition had urged its supporters to contact their state lawmakers and ask them to support AB 1041 since it ensures California's "leave laws extend to a worker's chosen or extended family — and for LGBTQ folk, that is often the primary family we have."

In a September 9 tweet Wicks wrote that she was making the bill, known as the Chosen Family Act, "a 2-yr bill to give us more time to work w/the Gov's office & key stakeholders for the strongest possible policy. We're committed to honoring the full intent of the bill: ensuring our leave policies reflect modern family relationships."

Erin Ivie, a spokeswoman for Wicks, told the B.A.R. Friday that backers of the bill need more time to fine-tune the definition of who qualifies as chosen family. She added that the Assemblywoman does intend to continue pushing the bill at the beginning of next session.

"All are committed to honoring the full intent of the bill, which is to ensure our leave policies reflect modern family relationships," wrote Ivie in an emailed reply.

Five LGBTQ-related bills already signed

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, Newsom has already signed into law several LGBTQ-related bills. Two aimed at assisting people living with HIV became law in July.

SB 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.

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.

The governor in July also signed into law Laird's SB 272 updating "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 that month authored by Bauer-Kahan, 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 also signed Bauer-Kahan's AB 439 to allow for deceased Californians who are nonbinary to be identified as such on their death certificates.

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