LGBT Disparities Reduction Act Passes First Committee

The Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee on April 30 voted with bi-partisan support to pass Assemblymember David Chiu’s Assembly Bill 959, a bill that would move California public policy closer towards meeting the needs of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) communities.

“Excluding LGBT communities from statewide collected data keeps these individuals and the health disparities they face invisible to the state,” said Assemblymember David Chiu. “AB 959 will ensure that our LGBT communities count.”

AB 959, the LGBT Disparities Reduction Act, is sponsored by Equality California (EQCA) and requires specified state agencies relating to health and well-being to collect voluntary information about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in the regular course of collecting other types of demographic data. Further, AB 959 would require that the aggregated SOGI data that act as indicators of disparities be reported to the legislature and made publicly available.

The rallying call for improved data collection about LGBT communities has only grown louder in the last few years. The prevalence of this historical exclusion of LGBT communities has recently prompted a convening of more than hundred organizations, community leaders, healthcare experts and educators hosted by EQCA. A report of findings from the convening stated that long-term discrimination and social bias has disproportionately impacted LGBT communities, resulting in high rates of poverty, suicide, homelessness isolation, substance abuse, violence, police profiling and criminal convictions, and low rates of health insurance, among other findings. These issues are increasingly prevalent for LGBT youth and seniors, communities of color, and the transgender and undocumented communities.

“The LGBT Disparities Reduction Act is a necessity to make sure government programs and services are being utilized effectively and reaching the communities that need these services and programs the most,” said Rick Zbur, Equality California executive director. “To tackle the disparities in health and well-being that LGBT people face, we need to make sure our community is counted. Assemblymember Chiu’s bill is one of the LGBT community’s top priorities and will give us the tools to address these disparities head on.”

“We want to be able to trust our health care providers to know more than we do about our health, but without data to reveal larger population-level trends, it’s hard—for them and for us,” said Niko Kowell, Program Coordinator for transgender services at the Asian and Pacific Islander Wellness Center in San Francisco and a key witness in support of AB 959. “If we start collecting this data now, it might not help me, but it will help with the next generation of LGBT youth, especially transgender youth, in this country. I hope that one day, transgender, gay, lesbian, and bisexual people will be able to have the same experience as everyone else when we go to the doctor.”

AB 959 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee in May.

Assemblymember David Chiu (D – San Francisco) is the Assistant Speaker Pro Tempore of the California State Assembly and represents the 17th Assembly District, which encompasses eastern San Francisco and the historic LGBT neighborhoods in the City.

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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