The California Senate unanimously passed legislation authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by Equality California to mandate the collection and reporting of sexual orientation and gender identity data for all COVID-19 patients on Thursday. Senator Wiener and Equality California introduced SB 932 in early May in response to the state and counties’ failure to collect and report data about the crisis’s impacts on the LGBTQ+ community — depriving both the government and LGBTQ+ community leaders of invaluable information needed to protect the health of LGBTQ+ Californians.
“California’s response to this crisis has been data-driven — and rightly so,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “Our government has set a national example of how to use data and science to meet this moment. But if LGBTQ+ people are left out of the data, then we’ll be left out of the response. Every day that passes, we lose critical, valuable information that could save lives. We will never get that information back. We’re grateful to the Senate for passing SB 932 and hope the Assembly will work quickly to send this emergency bill to Governor Newsom and that he will sign it.”
California is already collecting data on race, age, and sex with respect to cases of COVID-19 — data that has revealed deep disparities in both infection and fatality rates among Black and Latinx Californians. SB 932 requires collection of voluntarily provided sexual orientation and gender identity data for all COVID-19 patients, which would allow public health officials and government and community leaders to understand whether similar disparities exist within the LGBTQ+ community. As with all demographic data, no one will be required to answer these demographic questions, though every patient will be asked.
“SB 932 is essential in helping us understand how the LGBTQ community is being impacted by COVID-19,” said Senator Wiener. “LGBTQ people have heightened risk factors around this virus, yet we don’t collect this health data and have missed the opportunity for months. The history of LGBTQ people is a history of attempted erasure, in our health care system and in society. This erasure must stop, and collecting data is essential to end it. I want to thank Equality California for its partnership on this important health issue.”
If LGBTQ+ people continue to be left out of COVID-19 data, then outbreaks within the community can’t be detected and government and public health officials can’t take action to prevent COVID-19-related deaths. In addition to urging the California Legislature to pass SB 932, Equality California and other LGBTQ+ advocates have asked state and local elected officials and public health leaders to take immediate administrative action to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data.
Because rates of respiratory issues (from smoking), HIV/AIDS, cancer, and homelessness are higher in the LGBTQ+ community, LGBTQ+ people are likely experiencing greater health impacts from COVID-19. Additionally, LGBTQ+ people are more likely to work in the service industry and in front-line jobs. In May, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Commonwealth would be the first state to begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data. Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced last Friday, June 19, that the County and City of Los Angeles have begun collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity for all patients who receive a COVID-19 test through their free testing program.
SB 932 will allow healthcare providers and public health officials to understand rates of COVID-19 in the LGTBQ+ community, and help LGBTQ+ people get the resources and support they need. The bill is co-authored by all members of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, as well as Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), and co-sponsored by Equality California and the California LGBTQ Health and Human Services Network.