The California Legislature has sent seven Equality California-sponsored bills to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature. In addition, lawmakers approved two resolutions sponsored by Equality California. If the bills are signed into law, it will bring to 127 the number of pieces of legislation advanced by Equality California to advance the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ people.
“California has the world’s strongest civil rights protections for LGBTQ people, but until the work is done, EQCA will continue to fight for LGBTQ Californians” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California. “This year, each of our sponsored bills helped address an area where LGBTQ people still suffer discrimination and marginalization. Our bills this session protect vulnerable LGBTQ seniors, people living with HIV and AIDS, transgender and gender nonconforming Californians and aim to correct the wrongs associated with laws that criminalized same-sex behavior in the past. We ask Governor Brown to sign these pieces of legislation so important to LGBTQ Californians.”
The Equality California-sponsored bills passed by the California Legislature this session are as follows:
SB 239: Modernizing Discriminatory HIV Criminalization Laws (Wiener)
SB 239 would modernize California laws criminalizing and stigmatizing people living with HIV to reflect current understanding of HIV prevention and treatment. It would eliminate HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh and draconian penalties, including for activities that pose no risk of transmitting 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.
SB 179: Gender Recognition Act of 2017 (Atkins)
The Gender Recognition Act of 2017 would 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.
SB 219: Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights (Wiener)
SB 219 would strengthen protections for LGBTQ 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-LGBTQ 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.
SB 384: Tiered System for California Sex Offender Registry (Wiener)
SB 384 would replace 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. This bill addresses the unfair targeting and entrapment, primarily of gay men, 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 LGBTQ 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-LGBTQ 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.
SB 310: Name and Dignity Act (Atkins)
SB 310 would help ensure that transgender people will be legally recognized for who they are while incarcerated and increase the likelihood of their successful reentry into society upon release from custody. SB 310 would establish 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 would require 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.
AB 677: Reducing LGBT Disparities in Education and Employment (Chiu)
AB 677 would direct ten agencies focusing on education and employment to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity whenever additional demographic data is collected. The bill would expand the number of state agencies collecting such data, which are vital to ensuring that state programs are adequately reaching LGBTQ people in need.
AB 1556: Fair Employment and Housing Act Clarification (Stone)
This bill will clarify the Fair Employment and Housing Act, removing gendered terms such as “female,” “she,” and “her” from statutory provisions for pregnancy-related employment protections and replaces them with gender- neutral terms such as “person” or “employee.” These changes ensure that transgender, nonbinary, and gender non-conforming people are reflected in these protections and know that they can rely on them to meet their health needs if they become pregnant or have related medical conditions during the course of their employment.
In addition to the bills now awaiting the Governor’s signature, the Legislature has passed two Equality California-sponsored resolutions:
AJR 16: Violence in Chechnya (Low)
AJR 16 urges the President and the Congress of the United States to condemn the government-sanctioned persecution, torture, and murder of gay men in the Chechen Republic, to join in solidarity with all LGBTQ Russians in their fight for their lives, dignity, and respect and to take action to encourage the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to grant asylum and refugee status for individuals fleeing persecution, including individuals fleeing persecution due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
AJR 22: Transgender Service Members (Low)
This measure states the Legislature’s opposition to the President’s ban on transgender Americans from military service, and calls upon the Governor of California to direct the Armed Forces of the state to take no action that discriminates against transgender service members on the basis of their gender identity or expression, unless superseded by federal law.
The governor has until October 15 to sign or veto legislation passed by the Legislature.