Political Notes: CA LGBTQ youth, health data bills hit Newsom's desk

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Friday September 15, 2023
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Governor Gavin Newsom has been sent more than a dozen LGBTQ-related bills to sign or veto by the October 14 deadline. Photo: From X
Governor Gavin Newsom has been sent more than a dozen LGBTQ-related bills to sign or veto by the October 14 deadline. Photo: From X

An additional batch of LGBTQ-related bills have survived this year's legislative session and now await a decision by Governor Gavin Newsom on if they will be enacted. They include protections for LGBTQ foster youth and students, as well as improvements in the collection of health data for transgender and gender-nonconforming Californians.

Thursday saw the state Senate pass by a 32-8 vote Senate Bill 407 authored by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco). The bill directs the state's Department of Social Services to amend the foster care vetting process to ensure LGBTQ foster youth, who account for more than 30% of all youth in the foster care system, are not placed in hostile foster homes.

Per the legislation, foster families must demonstrate "an ability and willingness to meet the needs of the child regardless of the child's sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, and that, should difficulties around these issues arise, a willingness to obtain resources offered by the county or foster family agency or other available resources to meet those needs."

The Assembly had adopted SB 407 Wednesday by a 61-14 vote with five abstentions. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, the California Alliance of Child and Family Services hailed its passage out of the lower chamber.

"The bill will strengthen protections to ensure that #LGBTQ+ #FosterYouth are supported in resource family homes, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression," wrote the agency.

Conservative groups like the California Family Council had ferociously attacked the bill and are already calling on Newsom to veto it. They contend it will weed out Christians from being foster parents unless they "promise to affirm, encourage, and praise the chosen gender identity and sexual orientation of a foster child, no matter how young, and be able to cooperate in the medical transitioning of that child with drugs and surgeries."

Advocates for SB 407 countered that LGBTQ youth need to be protected from abuse in the state-funded foster care system, particularly at a time when LGBTQ youth are confronted with vitriol on social media platforms. Much of it is fueled by legislative attacks on their rights by Republican lawmakers and conservative parent groups.

Wiener thanked his colleagues for sending the bill to the governor's desk in a post on X Friday morning. It was one of the last LGBTQ-related bills to be passed out of the Legislature before the deadline to do so at midnight Thursday.

"Our bill to ensure foster parents understand the need to support LGBTQ foster youth — who are 30% of foster youth — & not kick them out, abuse them, or traumatize them (SB 407) is on its way to the Governor, having passed both the Senate & the Assembly," wrote Wiener.

Another bill now before Newsom aimed at protecting LGBTQ students, especially those who are transgender or gender-nonconforming, is SB 857 by gay state Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz). It passed out of the Senate Thursday by a 36-0 vote with four abstentions a day after the Assembly had adopted it 66-0 with 14 abstentions.

Should Newsom sign it into law, then State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond would have to convene a task force on the needs of LGBTQ+ pupils by July 1, 2024. According to the bill, the advisory body would be tasked with assisting in the implementation of supportive policies and initiatives to address LGBTQ+ pupil education and issue a report on its work by January 1, 2026.

As the Bay Area Reporter has reported, an LGBTQ school issues report card now twice issued by the Equality California Institute, most recently in 2022, has found lackluster results among the state's school districts. Laird partnered with the California Association of Student Councils on SB 857 with an eye toward seeing better results on the report cards, which should be released by EQCA every two years.

"It is high time that we ensure California's students have a rightful place at the table when it comes to matters of equity and inclusion," wrote Laird in a Guest Opinion piece for the B.A.R. during Pride Month in June.

The bill arrives on Newsom's desk amid a fierce backlash to LGBTQ student policies being waged this year by conservative-led school boards across the state. They have passed bans on flying Pride flags at school campuses and policies requiring the forced outing of transgender students to their parents.

The Temecula Valley Unified School District in Riverside County tried to ban instructional materials due to the inclusion of the late gay San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk. Faced with a $1.5 million fine from Newsom, it reversed course.

The issue led the governor's office to work with gay Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, Ph.D. (D-Perris) on amending his Assembly Bill 1078 so that it prohibits school districts from banning books in classrooms and libraries. Legislators last week sent it to Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law prior to his bill signing deadline of October 14.

"The tide is definitely turning against the Far Right and its efforts to ban books. We applaud California lawmakers for passing legislation to stop these bans and Gov. Newsom for showing his support," stated People For the American Way President Svante Myrick. "Just a few weeks ago, Illinois passed similar legislation and New Jersey is likely to be next. It's time for other states to join these leaders in striking a blow against book bans and the bigotry and authoritarianism the bans represent."

Other bills

Newsom also now has before him AB 760 authored by Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), the mother of a trans son, that would require the California State University system and the University of California system by the 2024-25 academic year to have campus systems that are "fully capable" of allowing current students, staff, or faculty to declare an affirmed name, gender, or both name and gender identification.

The Assembly Thursday passed an amended version of AB 760 by a 69-0 vote with 11 abstentions after the Senate had adopted it Wednesday by a 31-1 vote with eight abstentions. A bill adopted in 2021 prohibited California 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.

As the B.A.R. has previously reported, the University of California system had released in late 2020 a new policy on gender identity that all of its campuses must implement by the end of this year. Under Wilson's AB 760, commencing with the 2023-24 graduating class, all public universities in the state would be prohibited from requiring a graduating student to provide legal documentation sufficient to demonstrate a legal name or gender change in order to have the student's chosen name be the sole name listed on the student's diploma.

The bill also authorizes the schools to use a student's gender or legal name as indicated in a government-issued identification document "only if it is necessary to meet a legally mandated obligation." Otherwise a student would have to be identified "in accordance with the student's gender identity and affirmed name, as provided."

No later than July 1, 2026, various state agencies and departments would need to revise their public-use forms so they are more inclusive of individuals who identify as transgender, gender-nonconforming, or intersex under AB 1163 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta). It would also require the impacted agencies and departments to collect data pertaining to the specific needs of such individuals, such as their medical care and mental health disparities, as well as the population size of the various communities.

It passed out of the Assembly September 13 by a 64-3 vote with 13 abstentions. The day prior it had been passed by the state Senate by a 31-0 vote with nine abstentions.

"The Gender Identity Inclusivity Act is headed to the Governor's desk! Misgendering of members of the LGBTQ+ community has prevented them from receiving the services they need to survive & thrive," tweeted Rivas.

Altogether, state lawmakers sent to the governor 17 of the LGBTQ-related bills that the B.A.R. was tracking this year. As previously reported, Newsom signed into law on Wednesday a bill that immediately ended the state's ban on using taxpayer money to pay for nonemergency travel to states that have enacted anti-LGBTQ laws since 2015.

Three bills hit last-minute roadblocks over the last two weeks of the session but could be revived in January when the Legislature reconvenes for the 2024 legislative session. The legislation involved access to the HIV prevention medication PrEP and fertility services for LGBTQ people wanting to become parents, as well as assistance for workers who need time off to care for their chosen family members.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko

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

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