The Bay Area Reporter
by Matthew S. Bajko

California lawmakers advanced a slew of LGBT legislation, including bills that would require state agencies to collect LGBT data collection and add protections for unmarried parents, ahead of a June 5 deadline for bills to pass out of their house of origin.

One of the more consequential bills is AB 959, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Disparities Reduction Act authored by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco). It would require a number of state agencies to start collecting demographic data on gender identity and sexual orientation.

It passed out of the Assembly Monday, June 1 by a vote of 68-0 with bipartisan support and will now head to the state Senate, where it will be heard in committee either later this month or in July.

“The action taken by the Assembly today moves California one step closer to regaining its place as a leader in advancing LGBT civil rights,” stated Chiu following last week’s vote. “It is time for California to start counting our LGBT communities so we can better address health and well-being disparities that these individuals are experiencing every day.”

Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 vetoed a similar bill, partly due to the cost associated with having to upgrade state forms and computer systems. This year Equality California, the statewide LGBT advocacy organization, has made Chiu’s legislation its top priority.

It has argued that, without the data, public officials in health and social services are ill equipped to know if they are targeting the people who most need their help.

“Ignorance leads to discrimination in any setting, and health care is no exception,” stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur . “Before we can address the disparities LGBT people suffer in health care, including higher rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide, along with lower rates of health insurance enrollment, we have to know the size of the problem.”

In May the Assembly passed another of Chiu’s bills, AB 960, known as the Equal Protection for All Families Act, by a vote of 71-0, also with bipartisan support. It modernizes California law to protect families using assisted reproduction methods.

Sperm donors would not be legally considered a parent, under the legislation, and unmarried people using assisted reproduction would have the same parental rights as married parents.

“The Assembly’s actions today take California a step closer to bringing its assisted reproduction laws to reflect today’s realities,” stated Chiu following the May 18 vote. “Many families, especially our LGBT families, are now formed using assisted reproduction. California law needs to rightfully recognize all couples as parents the moment their child is born.”

A law aimed at benefitting LGBT-owned businesses passed out of the Assembly Tuesday, June 2 by a vote of 59-16. AB 865, authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Salinas), requires recipients of California Energy Commission grants or loans to increase procurement from minority-owned business enterprises, including those run by LGBT individuals.

“This bill will work to create relationships between the energy industry and minority groups,” stated Alejo in a press release from the Berkeley-based Greenlining Institute, which advocates for multi-ethnic public policies and is backing AB 865. “This means minority-owned businesses will have increased opportunities for job growth and a fair chance to obtain contracts with major corporations.”

In the state Senate, gay Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) saw his SB 731 pass by a 28-5 bipartisan vote Monday, June 1. The bill requires the consideration of gender identity when officials place youth in the state’s foster care system.

Another bill authored by Leno, SB 703, passed out of the chamber Wednesday, June 3 by a vote of 25-13. It requires out-of-state companies bidding on state-funded contracts to offer their transgender employees the same benefits other employees receive. California-based companies are already required to do so.

On June 1, by a bipartisan vote of 31-1, the Senate approved SB 524 by gay Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens). It is aimed at protecting the health and safety of youth, whether LGBT or straight, by requiring private residential facilities for youth to obtain a license from the Department of Social Services. It would cover such settings as residential boarding school facilities to military style academies and boot camps.

“Over the past few decades hundreds of facilities have been established nationally for youth with emotional or behavioral problems nationwide and abroad, including camps that claim to scare the gay away or cure homosexuality” stated Lara, who is working with the LA LGBT Center on the legislation. “Tragically, many young people have experienced horrendous abuse, neglect, and even death at these unregulated institutions. My bill would require private residential facilities to meet basic standards of care and ensure essential health and safety standards are met to protect youth.”

Other LGBT bills advance

One bill targeted by anti-gay groups is AB 329, the California Healthy Youth Act authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber(D-San Diego), which requires sex education for students in grades 7 to 12 to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate instruction on LGBT youth and families, and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and pregnancy.

The California Family Alliance warned its members in April that Weber’s bill “would prohibit all school districts in the state from using parent-friendly opt-in policies for sexual health and HIV/AIDS instruction. That means instead of requiring schools to receive written permission before a student participates in such instruction, parents would be required to file letters to opt their children out.”

Despite the opposition to the bill, AB 329 passed out of the Assembly Tuesday, June 2 by a vote of 51-25.

On March 19 the Assembly voted 68-2 to pass AB 87, which bans discrimination against transgender jurors during the jury selection process in California courts. Authored by Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay), the bill also clarifies that jury selection discrimination based on ethnicity, age, genetic information, or disability is also prohibited.

May 26 the Assembly passed by a vote of 62-7 AB 1050 authored by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell). Under the bill private organizations like the Boy Scouts that discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity would be ineligible to participate in a state employee charitable giving program.

Last week the Assembly voted 59-15, after a third reading of the bill Thursday, June 4, to pass AB 827, authored by AssemblymanPatrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach). It calls for the creation of a training program to help teachers combat bullying and support LGBT youth who are coming out of the closet or being targeted by other students.

The various bills must now pass out of the Legislature’s other chamber by September 11 in order to be sent to Brown, who has until October 11 to either sign or veto the bills.

To track the bills visit http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/bilinfo.html.