By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters
According to Wikipedia, “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in the United States are considered among some of the most advanced in the world; however, they vary on a jurisdiction-by jurisdiction basis … However, the United States has no federal law outlawing discrimination nationwide, leaving residents in some states without protection from discrimination, other than from federal executive orders which have a more limited scope than from protections through federal legislation.”
The American Civil Liberties Union points out: “At the close of 2016, 20 states and D.C. had passed laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing and public accommodations …”
Consensual same-sex sexual activity has been legal in California since 1976. But the long journey to full civil rights and protections under California state law is not over for LGBTQ Californians.
While researching a plethora of codes, laws, ordinances, statutes and policies that protect the rights of LGBTQ citizens of all ages within the city of San Diego, my intent shifted to the more relevant laws within the state of California and San Diego County, which the city is obliged to follow.
No state has been as far ahead of the curve as California. In 1999, California was the first U.S. state to legalize domestic partnerships between same-sex couples. Protections against discrimination because of one’s sexual orientation and gender identity or expression and the right of same-sex couples to adopt have been legal statewide since 2003.
Public education includes teachings on the history of the LGBT community, students are allowed to choose restroom or sports teams consistent with their gender identity and mental health providers are prohibited from participating in reparative therapy for LGBT minors.
For five months in 2008, same-sex marriage was legal in California before voters narrowly passed Proposition 8 to reverse it. Five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to recognize the legal standing of same-sex marriage opponents in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry. So on June 26, 2013, the ban was no longer enforceable.
Then, in 2014, California became the first state in the U.S. to ban the use of gay and trans “panic” defenses in murder trials and in 2015 became the first state to agree to pay for transgender reassignment surgery for prison inmates.
The following is a summary of the 2016 legislation and resolutions passed and/or signed into law in California, which are critical steps forward.
- SB 1005 — Modernizing Code Language to Reflect Marriage Equality; author, Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara); signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, July 1, 2016.
- SJR 26 — Urging Science-Based Guidelines for Blood Donation; author, president pro tem Kevin de León; passed Aug. 11.
- AJR 45 — Resolution in Support of the Equality Act; author, Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco); passed Aug. 24.
- SB 1146 — Uncovering Discrimination in Higher Education; author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens); signed by Gov. Brown, Sept. 30.
- AB 2246 — Suicide Prevention Policies in Schools; author, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach); signed by Gov. Brown, Sept. 26.
- SB 1408 — HIV Organ and Tissue Donation Equity; author, Assemblymember Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica); signed into law by Gov. Brown, May 27.
- AB 1887 — Prevent California-Funded Travel to States with a License to Discriminate; author, Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell); signed by Gov. Brown, Sept. 27.
- AB 1732 — The Equal Restrooms Access Act; author, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco); signed by Gov. Brown, Sept. 29.
Equality California also recently announced 12 initial sponsored bills for its 2017 legislative package, summarized below:
- SB 239 — Modernizing Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego). It modernizes California laws criminalizing and stigmatizing people living with HIV to reflect current understanding of HIV prevention and treatment.
- SB 179 — Gender Recognition Act of 2017 authored by Sen. Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Sen. Wiener. It will enable transgender, intersex and non-binary people to obtain state-issued identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity.
- SB 219 — Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights authored by Sen. Wiener. This strengthens protections for LGBT seniors living in long-term care facilities against discrimination, such as refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun; denying admission to a long-term care facility; transferring a resident within a facility or to another facility based on anti-LGBT attitudes of other residents; or evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident from a facility on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or HIV status.
- AB 888 — Transparency in Higher Education authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley). AB-888 calls attention to the unsafe atmosphere that institutionalized discrimination can create for students at colleges and universities in California.
- SB 695 — Tiered System for California Sex Offender Registry authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles). It replaces California’s existing universal lifetime registration requirement for sex offenses with a tiered system based on the seriousness of the crime, the risk of reoffending and criminal history.
- AB 800 — Hate Crimes Hotline authored by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco). The bill would establish a hotline to report hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents and provide information to support targeted communities.
- AB 1161 — Updating Local Hate Crimes Policies authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco). This would help empower local communities to safely reduce the number of hate crimes.
- SB 310 — Name and Dignity Act authored by Sen. Atkins. The bill would help to ensure that transgender people will be legally recognized for who they are while incarcerated and increases the likelihood of their successful reentry into society upon release from custody.
- SB 488 — Diversity and Inclusion in the Insurance Industry by Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena). It would expand existing law to include LGBT-owned and veteran-owned businesses on the list of diverse product and service suppliers for insurers, as well as codify the governing board diversity survey, and extend the supplier diversity survey to Jan. 1, 2025.
- AB 677 — Reducing LGBT Disparities in Education and Employment by Assemblymember Chiu. This directs 10 agencies focusing on education and employment to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity whenever additional demographic data is collected.
- SB 221 — HEAL (Help End Antiretroviral-related Lipodystrophy) Act authored by Sen. Wiener. It requires that all health insurance plans governed by California law must cover medical treatment to correct HIV-associated lipodystrophy, which creates abnormal accumulations of fat in, for example, the neck and upper back areas.
- AB 1556 — Fair Employment and Housing Act Clarification, by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay). AB-1556 would amend the FEHA to remove gendered terms such as “female,” “she” and “her” from statutory provisions for pregnancy-related employment protections, and replace them with gender-neutral terms such as “person” or “employee.”
While progress is being made, the work is not finished. We must insist our state officials continue amending existing laws and writing new civil rights protections until all legal loop holes allowing LGBT discrimination to take place are closed.
For a more comprehensive in-depth view of the history of LGBT rights in the United States, I highly recommend that you visit bit.ly/2w7pMuU.
Next month, we will look at San Diego County’s 2015-20 strategic plan for diversity and inclusion.
—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at email@example.com.