Political Notebook: Despite vetoing 2 LGBTQ bills, Newsom garners praise

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday October 5, 2022
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Governor Gavin Newsom earned praise for LGBTQ bills he signed this legislative session. Photo: Courtesy Twitter
Governor Gavin Newsom earned praise for LGBTQ bills he signed this legislative session. Photo: Courtesy Twitter

Despite vetoing two LGBTQ bills this legislative session, California Governor Gavin Newsom is garnering praise from LGBTQ groups for signing into law 17 other pieces of legislation expanding rights for LGBTQ individuals. He also picked up the endorsement this week of a national LGBTQ advocacy group.

In announcing October 4 that the Human Rights Campaign PAC was endorsing Newsom's reelection this November to a second four-year term, the organization's senior vice president for policy and political affairs, JoDee Winterhof, noted the governor's long track record for advancing LGBTQ rights during his political career in contrast to "extremist elected officials" in other states who have been rolling back the rights of their LGBTQ+ citizens.

"First as the mayor of San Francisco and now as the governor of California, he has been a tireless champion of equality for all Californians and a national leader in the fight to keep LGBTQ+ rights from being rolled back elsewhere," stated Winterhof. "As one of the most pro-equality governors in the nation, Newsom has prioritized advancing the freedoms and rights of the LGBTQ+ community, and the Human Rights Campaign is proud to endorse him for reelection."

Newsom's campaign has yet to schedule an editorial board meeting with the Bay Area Reporter ahead of the November 8 election. He is expected to easily win against his Republican challenger, state Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber).

In a statement released by HRC, Newsom pledged "under my watch, California will continue to prioritize freedom and equality for all — even as extremist politicians in states across the country attempt to roll back LGBTQ+ rights."

He also stated that he's "worked to build a better future for Californians, especially our kids."

Yet one of the bills he vetoed this year, Assembly Bill 2663 by Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-Highland), would have created a five-year pilot project called the Youth Acceptance Project to assist LGBTQ foster youth. As the B.A.R. has previously reported, the Oakland-based nonprofit Family Builders by Adoption had worked with Ramos and LGBTQ lawmakers on the bill.

Family Builders is already providing such assistance in the Bay Area and would have been able to expand to other parts of the state. Jill Jacobs, a lesbian who is the agency's executive director, told the B.A.R. this week that she plans to send Newsom a letter expressing her disappointment in his decision to veto AB 2663.

It was one of two LGBTQ bills that Newsom spiked with his veto pen due to the millions of dollars it would have cost the state to implement them. The other was Senate Bill 1234, the STI Prevention & Treatment Fairness Act authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), which would have expanded access for sexually transmitted infections care to low-income LGBTQ+ patients via the state's Family Planning, Access, Care, and Treatment program.

Understanding of the fiscal considerations, Jacobs told the B.A.R. she did take issue with Newsom's veto message for AB 2663 in which he wrote that the state needs to prioritize "safety-net programs." There are no such programs for LGBTQ foster care youth, said Jacobs.

"He has been a huge advocate about being a sanctuary state for trans kids from other states. But there is nothing here for LGBTQ foster kids in California," said Jacobs, who plans to talk with lawmakers about reintroducing Ramos' bill next year.

She was referring to Newsom's signing SB 107 authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that protects transgender youth and their families who may face prosecution from their home states for seeking gender-affirming health care in California. A number of states, such as Texas, Alabama, and Idaho, have banned such procedures and plan to prosecute parents who allow their children to undergo them, though LGBTQ advocates are challenging the transphobic laws in the courts.

Wiener told the B.A.R. he was disappointed that Newsom vetoed the two bills but wasn't shocked by the decisions due to the governor referring to fiscal concerns in numerous veto messages he issued this year.

"He vetoed a number of bills I am pretty confident he didn't have a policy disagreement with but was focused on cost. He was quite consistent this year," said Wiener. "Even though I am disappointed he vetoed those bills, and wish he hadn't, it was not shocking to me given that language we saw over and over again."

Gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell), chair of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, told the B.A.R. that the governor has different considerations to make than lawmakers do when it comes to bills, so he understood his reasoning behind the vetoes.

"At the same time, I am hopeful about finding the resources so that we can not only support the policy but also support the implementation," said Low, adding that reintroducing the bills is "to be decided, but I still stand by the policy. The question really is how do we advance the policies impacting the LGBTQ-plus community in the state of California while also understanding the fiscal constraints."

The vetoes make it "challenging," noted Wiener, to revive the bills next session, but he didn't rule out doing so. With Pan leaving the Legislature this year and creating "a massive void" in terms of leadership on health-related issues, Wiener said he would consider taking over authorship of the STI Fairness Act.

"I know I and others need to step up in a big way to pick up the baton from him. Sexual health issues are near and dear to my heart," said Wiener.

Because Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ advocacy organization, did not sign on as a co-sponsor of AB 2663, it will not ding Newsom for vetoing it when it releases its 2022 legislative scorecard for the governor and state lawmakers, spokesperson Jorge Reyes Salinas told the B.A.R. (It is likely to issue the annual report in early January.)

But EQCA was a co-sponsor of SB 1234 so could deduct points from Newsom's score for not signing that bill. After receiving perfect 100% scores during his first two years in office, the governor earned a score of 88% in 2021 due to vetoing a bill related to substance use treatment that Wiener authored and EQCA co-sponsored.

Speaking to the B.A.R. Tuesday, Salinas said EQCA has yet to decide which bills it will grade Newsom on for his 2022 score.

"We don't have that scoring yet," he said.

Wiener told the B.A.R. he doesn't weigh in on how groups score lawmakers. He personally would give Newsom "a solid A" this year, adding he was "really happy and grateful" to see him sign the trio of LGBTQ bills he had authored.

"Gavin Newsom continues to be a staunch ally to the community. He really is willing to go above and beyond for LGBTQ people," said Wiener.

Low also told the B.A.R. that Newsom deserves an A grade this year.

"We continue to build off the historic nature of the legislative proposals we have enacted, especially when you compare that to and see the devastating attacks on the most vulnerable in our community in other states," said Low.

SB 1234 went unmentioned in a news release EQCA sent out October 3 praising Newsom for signing "legislation strengthening protections for LGBTQ+ Californians." It specifically pointed to nine LGBTQ bills he signed in September, plus two bills he had signed earlier in the year.

Among them were three Newsom signed September 30, the last day for him to do so. AB 2436 co-authored by Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), a lesbian mother of triplets, requires death certificates to list a decedents' parents without referring to the parents' gender. The change will benefit LGBTQ+ parents as they navigate estate proceedings and other matters following the death of a child.

The state's pharmacists and pharmacy technicians will need to undergo at least one hour of culturally competent training about the concerns of LGBTQ+ patients before receiving a license under AB 2194 authored by gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego).

And AB 2315 by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula (D-Fresno) requires the governing board of each community college district in California to implement a process by which students, staff, and faculty can declare an affirmed name, gender, or both name and gender identification to be used in records where legal names are not required by law. The community colleges need to be in compliance with AB 2315 commencing with the 2023-24 academic year.

"While far-right politicians in Texas and Florida were attacking trans kids and criminalizing abortion, California remains a beacon of hope and keeps its commitment that our state will lead by example and understands the values of our democracy," stated EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang. "This legislative cycle our signed sponsored legislation will help advance transgender equality and health, protect diverse LGBTQ+ families, safeguard reproductive freedom and ensure public documents reflect the identities of transgender and nonbinary Californians — advancing full, lived LGBTQ+ equality."

Based on a tally kept by the B.A.R., Newsom signed into law 16 bills related to LGBTQ rights that lawmakers passed this year and one bill passed during the 2021 legislative session that wasn't sent to the governor until June. That bill, SB 357 by Wiener, repealed California's "walking while trans" loitering law.

Newsom signed two LGBTQ bills last Friday not included in EQCA's list. Cervantes' AB 2466 explicitly prohibits an agency that places foster children from declining to place a child with a resource family because a resource family parent identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.

The other bill was Low's AB 1432, which updates the annual proclamation California governors have issued declaring June as LGBT Pride Month to now refer to it as LGBTQ+ Pride Month.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on the record number of out candidates endorsed this year by the LGBTQ Victory Fund.

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

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

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