Equality California Announces 2017 Legislative Package

Equality California (EQCA) today announced the initial 10 sponsored bills of its 2017 legislative package.

Rick Zbur, EQCA executive director introduced The package saying, “The LGBT community faces significant challenges in Washington and across the country with attempts to roll back LGBT civil rights along with programs that LGBT people depend on, such as the Affordable Care Act. At the same time, California must not just hold the line, but continue to make progress in our goal of achieving full equality and social justice for LGBT people. In the coming years, our state can serve as a beacon of hope for the rest of the nation. This year’s legislative package is part of our continuing effort to address the disparities that LGBT people face as a result of longstanding discrimination and lack of acceptance.”

This year, Equality California is sponsoring the following bills:

SB 239 – Modernizing Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws

SB 239, authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego), modernizes California laws criminalizing and stigmatizing people living with HIV to reflect current understanding of HIV prevention and treatment. It eliminates HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh and draconian penalties, including for activities that pose no risk of transmitting HIV. This bill is supported by public health officials because laws that criminalize HIV discourage people from getting tested and from seeking treatment, which impedes public health objectives of eliminating transmission of HIV. SB 239 would make HIV subject to the laws that apply to other serious communicable diseases, removing discrimination and stigma for people living with HIV and furthering public health. The bill is cosponsored by the Equality California, ACLU of California, APLA Health, Black AIDS Institute, Lambda Legal and Positive Women’s Network – USA.

SB 179 – Gender Recognition Act of 2017

SB 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, authored by Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Sen. Scott Wiener, will enable transgender, intersex and nonbinary people to obtain state-issued identity documents that accurately reflect their gender identity, making California the first state to not require people to officially identify as “male” or “female.” The bill creates a third, nonbinary gender marker on California birth certificates, drivers’ licenses, identity cards and gender-change court orders, in addition to streamlining the processes for a person to change their gender marker and name on these identifying documents. The Gender Recognition Act of 2017 is cosponsored by Equality California and Transgender Law Center.

SB 219 – Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights

SB 219, authored by Sen. Wiener, 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

AB 888, authored by Asm. Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley), calls attention to the unsafe atmosphere that institutionalized discrimination can create for students at colleges and universities in California. At many religious institutions of higher education, LGBT students have been disciplined or expelled because they are LGBT or have engaged in LGBT community or advocacy activities. As proposed to be amended, AB 888 would require private colleges and universities receiving Cal Grant funding to annually report rates of expulsion and all other disciplinary actions for the previous academic year, broken down by the specific institutional policy at issue, whether the institution has applied for or received a waiver of the requirements of the federal Title IX, and whether the student falls into one or more of the protected categories under California’s civil rights law. This data will increase transparency and provide insight on the climate that students from marginalized communities face at these institutions.

SB 695 – Tiered System for California Sex Offender Registry

SB 695, authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach) and Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), 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. There are over 100,000 registrants in California, far more than any other state, and California is one of only four states with a universal lifetime registry. Equality California is cosponsoring this bill to address the unfair circumstance of LGBT people who were targeted and often entrapped on charges that required registration when their actual actions hurt no one, including for simply engaging in same-sex contact when that action was criminalized in the past. These members of the LGBT community were required to register as sex offenders for life even though their convictions are now decades old and the law and its enforcement have changed, and the basis for many of these arrests was due to anti-LGBT discrimination and police entrapment. This bill would remove these people from the registry along with others in similar circumstances and put a new, efficient, risk-based system in place. This bill is cosponsored by Equality California, the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office, the California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CALCASA).

AB 800 – Hate Crimes Hotline

AB 800, authored by Asm. David Chiu (D-San Francisco), would establish a hotline to report hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents and provide information to support targeted communities. Hate crimes and bias-motivated incidents, including against LGBT people, have increased nationwide, especially in recent months. As proposed to be amended, AB 800 would create a statewide, accessible, toll-free hotline and online form for reporting hate crimes and hate incidents, provide much-needed information to victims and witnesses about their rights, and connect victims and witnesses to appropriate local and statewide resources.

AB 1161 – Updating Local Hate Crimes Policies

AB 1161, authored by Asm. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) would help empower local communities to safely reduce the number of hate crimes. As proposed to be amended, this bill would require local law enforcement agencies to update their policies on hate crimes and provide guidance to strengthen those policies, focusing on recognizing hate crimes when they have occurred, engaging in appropriate response given the targeted community and the broader community, and fostering a community environment that prevents future hate crimes and incidents from occurring.

SB 310 – Name and Dignity Act

SB 310, authored by Sen. Atkins, helps 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. The current belabored process that an incarcerated transgender person must complete before petitioning the court to change their legal name or gender marker often results in improper denials or no resolution to requests. SB 310 establishes the right of transgender people incarcerated in state prisons or county jails to petition the court directly to change their legal name or gender marker. The bill requires corrections officials to use the new name of a person who obtains a name change, and to list the prior name only as an alias. SB 310 is cosponsored by Equality California, St. James Infirmary, the Transgender Gender-Variant Intersex Justice Project, Transgender Law Center, the Western Regional Advocacy Project, the Women’s Foundation of California and the Women’s Policy Institute.

AB 677 – Reducing LGBT Disparities in Education and Employment

AB 677, by Asm. Chiu, directs ten agencies focusing on education and employment to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity whenever additional demographic data is collected. Collecting this data helps to reduce disparities, ensure that educational programs are responsive to the needs of LGBT youth, and improve access to employment for LGBT workers.

SB 221 – Insurance Coverage for Lipodystrophy

SB 221, authored by Sen. Wiener, 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. HIV-associated lipodystrophy affects only a finite number of people living with HIV who first took certain medications in the 1990s, so the number of those affected is small and not growing. Treatment is a simple procedure, and can prevent future costs associated with having lipodystrophy, including for physical therapy, pain management and psychotherapy.