California to collect LGBTQ violent death data under bill signed by Newsom

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday September 16, 2021
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Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation making California the first state in the country to collect violent death data within its LGBTQ community. Photo: AP
Governor Gavin Newsom has signed legislation making California the first state in the country to collect violent death data within its LGBTQ community. Photo: AP

California will become the first state in the country to collect violent death data within its LGBTQ community due to legislation Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Thursday.

Assembly Bill 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. Newsom, two days after decisively defeating a Republican-led attempt to recall him from office, signed the bill into law September 16 without comment.

The legislation establishes a pilot program to train coroners and medical examiners on how to collect sexual orientation and gender identity demographics, also known as SOGI data, in all cases of violent death. The aim is to better understand what disparities there are in the LGBTQ community's mortality rate so it can lead to the development of policies that address those disparities at the county level throughout the state.

"This is a first-of-its-kind bill in the nation. By collecting data re: violent deaths among the #LGBTQ community, we can focus resources & policies to help save lives. My appreciation to my colleagues & Gov. Newsom!" tweeted Arambula after Newsom's office released a list of bills he had signed into law Thursday.

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization that co-sponsored the bill with the LGBTQ youth agency The Trevor Project, had noted in a tweet after the legislation had cleared the Legislature September 2 that "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."

After Newsom signed it into law, EQCA tweeted out a "HUGE shoutout" to the Trevor Project, applauding it for making "this first-in-the-nation victory possible! Thanks to their dedication," and that of Arambula and Newsom, noted EQCA, "this pilot program and its subsequent data will help save the lives of LGBTQ+ people."

Newsom also signed into law AB 465 by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Van Nuys) to 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.

In a tweet about its becoming law EQCA noted that the "multi-session priority" bill for it "will ensure professional fiduciaries are equipped to support LGBTQ+ older adults, who face unique challenges as they age."

Five LGBTQ-related bills already signed

While Newsom still has several other bills related to LGBTQ concerns to either sign or veto by his October 10 deadline to do so, he has already now signed into law seven LGBTQ-related bills this legislative session. Two aimed at assisting people living with HIV became law in July, as the B.A.R. has previously reported.

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.

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 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 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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