Equality California Announces 2015 Legislative Package that Advances Expanded Mission

Equality California is pleased to announce the first eight items in its 2015 legislative package which would improve and advance equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Californians and their families. Equality California will announce additional legislation in the coming weeks.

In September of 2014, Equality California adopted a new mission statement which is to achieve full and lasting equality, acceptance and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. A key focus of our expanded mission is to address disparities in the health and well-being of LGBT Californians. This expanded mission guides this year’s legislative package.

“Collectively, these bills not only close some of the remaining gaps in California civil rights laws but also help advance EQCA’s new objectives which are to address the health and well-being of LGBT Californians,” said Rick Zbur, EQCA executive director.Our Fair Share for Equality” report highlights that LGBT people face significant disparities in their health and well-being compared with the broader community. Our legislative program is focused on beginning to address these disparities.”

“Much attention has been paid to the Supreme Court and its upcoming decision on gay marriage, and rightfully so,” Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman, chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus said. “However, we have to remember the difference between landmark decisions and finish lines. These bills are part of the continuing work to which we dedicate ourselves, and remember that the struggle for equality goes on. Health disparities, school inclusiveness and discrimination against transgender individuals are still pressing issues for the LGBT community. We hope to continue our work with EQCA in ensuring that California remains a leader in civil rights.”

The following bills are aimed at reducing disparities the LGBT community faces by requiring government agencies to collect important data on sexual orientation and gender identity, assisting teachers to combat bullying and harassment through training, addressing transgender health disparities by requiring out-of-state contractors give equal benefits to transgender employees, and updating sex education curriculum to include accurate information about LGBT families and relationships.

Reduce disparities in health and well-being for LGBT people through data collection: AB 959, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, would require government agencies to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity whenever additional demographic data is collected. Collecting this data is necessary to understand the extent to which LGBT people are experiencing disparities in health and well-being and whether government programs are reaching LGBT people in need of care and assistance.

Collect data about LGBT Californians through Covered California and Medi-Cal: In tandem with AB 959, EQCA is leading a coalition advocating that the paper and online applications for Covered California and Medi-Cal, which together will insure one-third of all Californians, includes voluntary questions about sexual orientation and gender identity.

Collecting this information is critical in healthcare settings to ensure LGBT individuals get the culturally competent health care they need.

Help teachers combat bullying and support LGBT youth: As proposed to be amended, AB 827, authored by Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, would create a teacher training program that would aid teachers in identifying and assisting LGBT students who may need particular support in the coming out process or dealing with bias-based bullying. LGBT youth have a higher dropout rate than their straight peers and are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. Therefore, AB 827 will give teachers the training they need to help LGBT students.

Require out-of-state companies who contract with the state of California to provide insurance benefits to transgender employees: SB 703, authored by Senator Mark Leno, prohibits state agencies from doing business with companies that fail to offer transgender employees the same health care coverage and benefits they offer all other workers. This would reduce disparities in health care coverage for transgender people. EQCA is co-sponsoring SB 703 with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Transgender Law Center.

Update existing law to ensure students understand the various kinds of families and relationships: AB329, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, would update and strengthen existing law to ensure that students receive sex education that is accurate, comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate and inclusive. This bill will teach students about LGBT people and their families and will lead to greater understanding and acceptance of LGBT youth and families. Additionally, the bill will update curriculum on prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and pregnancy. EQCA is co-sponsoring AB 329 with American Civil Liberties Union of California, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Forward Together, and Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

“California has the most comprehensive pro-equality civil rights protections of any state in the country, but gaps remain. These bills will address some of the gaps that still exist by providing important new protections,” Zbur continued.

End discrimination against transgender jurors: AB 87, authored by Assemblymember Mark Stone, would prohibit discrimination against transgender jurors in the jury selection process in California courts. The bill also makes clear that jury selection discrimination based on ethnicity, age, genetic information, or disability is prohibited as well.

Protect all parents equally: AB 960, authored by Assemblymember David Chiu, would modernize California’s assisted reproduction laws to protect families using assisted reproduction. Current law puts intended parents using this method of reproduction and their children at risk due to discrepancies in parental rights. EQCA is co-sponsoring AB 960 with the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Our Family Coalition.

Ensure that private organizations that discriminate do not benefit from a state employee charitable giving program: AB 1050, authored by Assemblymember Evan Low, would require that all charities eligible for donations through a state employee giving program are screened to ensure that they do not discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Over the past 17 years, EQCA has changed the legislative landscape for LGBT people — from a state with extremely limited protections for LGBT people to the state with the most comprehensive LGBT civil rights protections in the country. With a total of 102 bills passed prior to the 2015 session, passing these eight would bring that total to 110, continuing EQCA’s record-setting legislative agenda.

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Equality California is California’s largest statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization focused on creating a fair and just society. Our mission is to achieve and maintain full and lasting equality, acceptance and social justice for all people in our diverse LGBT communities, inside and outside of California. Our mission includes advancing the health and well-being of LGBT Californians through direct healthcare service advocacy and education. Through electoral, advocacy, education and mobilization programs, we strive to create a broad and diverse alliance of LGBT people, educators, government officials, communities of color and faith, labor, business, and social justice communities to achieve our goals. www.eqca.org