Political Notebook: Signing sweep for Gov. Brown on LGBT bills

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Wednesday October 18, 2017
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For the fourth year in a row, California Governor Jerry Brown did not veto any of the LGBT-related bills that landed on his desk during the legislative session.

Among the eight pieces of legislation that he signed and will take effect January 1 are bills that make it easier for transgender or gender nonconforming people, including those in prison, to update their state-issued identification documents, reduce the criminal penalties for people who knowingly transmit HIV to their sex partners, and allow certain convicted sex offenders to petition to be removed from the state's registry.

The number of state agencies required to collect LGBT demographic information will also expand, and LGBT seniors living in assisted care facilities will have greater rights because of the bills Brown signed into law this year.

The governor did not issue any signing statements for the LGBT-related legislation enacted this year. Asked for comment, Brown's deputy press secretary Ali Bay told the Bay Area Reporter, "We will let the governor's signature on each of these bills speak for itself."

Brown's signing of the legislation state lawmakers passed in 2017 further cements his legacy as the most LGBT-friendly governor in the state's history. During his current two terms in office, Brown has signed into law 60 bills that protected the rights of, or improved the health of, the LGBT community in the Golden State. And over the last seven years, Brown has vetoed just six LGBT-related bills.

The tally is based on the B.A.R.'s coverage since 2011, the start of Brown's third gubernatorial term, and the legislative scorecards annually compiled by Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization.

"With these signatures, Jerry Brown has cemented his legacy as the most LGBTQ-friendly governor in California history," stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur, adding that the organization is "grateful that Gov. Brown has once again proved himself to be a steadfast ally of our community with his support of these bills so vital to LGBTQ health and well-being."

Former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Brown's predecessor, vetoed 17 LGBT-related bills during his seven years in office and signed 38 into law. Based on a list of legislation compiled by the California LGBT Legislative Caucus and published reports, recalled Democratic Governor Gray Davis signed 26 LGBT-related bills into law while in office between 1999 and 2003; he vetoed at least three.

Brown's LGBT bill signing record is sure to expand in 2018 as the Democrat prepares to leave the governor's office for a second time due to term limits. He first served two gubernatorial terms in the late 1970s through the early 1980s, when he made LGBT history by signing into law a 1975 bill that repealed California's anti-gay sodomy laws.

Evan Minton, a transgender legislative staffer and co-chair of the California Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus, told the B.A.R. that Brown's legislative legacy on LGBT rights will be front and center for the caucus members as they determine which of the candidates running for governor to support in 2018.

"The California Democratic Party's LGBT Caucus appreciates Governor Brown's longstanding friendship. It is due to Governor Brown - along with LGBTQ activists, grassroots Democrats, and fair-minded legislators - that California's LGBTQ residents have gained so many of the rights and protections we now have," wrote Minton in response to the B.A.R.'s request for comment. "As we look to gubernatorial candidates for 2018, we are keeping a close eye on who we believe will most effectively build upon Governor Brown's meaningful legacy."

Bills signed into law

Sunday, October 15, the last day this year for the governor to decide on the 977 bills sent to him, Brown signed the two laws governing a person's sex and name listed on their ID authored by lesbian state Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego).

Senate Bill 179 - the Gender Recognition Act of 2017 co-authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) - allows people to choose "nonbinary" as the gender on their birth certificates and other documents.

"I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing how difficult it can be for our transgender, nonbinary and intersex family members, friends and neighbors when they don't have an ID that matches their gender presentation," stated Atkins.

Added Wiener, "For too long society has forced people into gender boxes. It's time for government to get out of the way and let people live their lives authentically as who they are."

SB 310, the Name and Dignity Act, makes it easier for transgender people incarcerated in state prisons or county jails to change their legal name or gender marker. It also requires corrections officials to use the new name of a person who obtains a name change and to list their prior name only as an alias.

"Transgender people are disproportionately impacted by recidivism due to being pushed out of traditional economies, housing and health care," stated Transgender Gender Variant Intersex Justice Project Executive Director Janetta Johnson. "A person exiting prison with identification documents that actually match who they are has an exponential impact on their ability to access life-giving services without some of the discrimination that comes with having identification documents that don't match their gender presentation."

EQCA's Zbur stated that SB 310 will "ensure that transgender inmates will be treated with dignity, which in turn will help them to begin their successful reentry into society after incarceration."

SB 384, authored by Wiener and backed by law enforcement officials across the state, creates a three-tiered system for California's Sex Offender Registry with registration periods of upward of 10 years, 20 years, or life. Low-level offenders, such as gay men arrested during undercover sting operations at public parks or highway rest areas, will be able to petition to be removed from the registry, while high-risk offenders will remain on it for life.

SB 239, co-authored by Wiener and gay state Assemblyman Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), modernizes the state's HIV criminalization laws adopted during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s. It requires proof that transmission of HIV did occur in order for a person to be prosecuted for intentionally transmitting the virus to a sex partner.

Wiener's SB 219 - the Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights - protects LGBT seniors from being discriminated against in long-term care facilities throughout the state. Modeled after a similar policy that San Francisco officials adopted several years ago, it requires employees at such facilities to allow same-sex couples to live together and to use the preferred names and pronouns of transgender residents.

SB 396, the Transgender Work Opportunity Act authored by gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), makes California the first in the nation to require businesses to train their employees about transgender issues. It amends the two-hour sexual harassment training requirement in the Fair Housing and Employment Act to include training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation for supervisory employees at companies with more than 50 employees.

The bill also calls for employers to display a poster with information on transgender rights in the workplace developed by the state Department of Fair Employment and Housing. It also authorizes workforce development boards to target programs to transgender workers and calls on the statewide Workforce Development Board to include representatives from the LGBT community.

Assembly Bill 677, authored by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), requires state agencies that deal with education and employment issues to ask about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) on their forms and surveys. It will increase the number of state entities asking such questions to 10 by July 1, 2019.

AB 1556 by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) updates the state's Fair Employment and Housing Act to use gender inclusive language, such as "person" or "employee" instead of "he" or "she."

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings at noon for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column looked at the increasing tensions in an LA Assembly race.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBT political news by following the Political Notebook on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/politicalnotes .

Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected] .