Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

State legislators pass several EQCA-sponsored bills

The past week has seen several bills sponsored by Equality California making their way through the Legislature.

On Wednesday, August 25, the state Senated passed the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Prisoner Safety Act – Assembly Bill 633 – in a 26-9 vote. The bill, authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), is designed to prevent violence against LGBT people in the state prison system.

The bill would amend the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act of 2005 to include self-reported safety concerns related to sexual orientation and gender identity on the list of factors for consideration when classifying and housing prisoners.

“All people deserve basic protections — including those serving time in our state prisons,” said Ammiano in a statement from EQCA. “No prisoner should fear for his or her life or be the target of abuse because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Geoff Kors, EQCA’s executive director (pictured at right), stated, “This important bill would help prevent brutal assaults against prisoners who are targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

A California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation study has found that 67 percent of LGBT inmates report being sexually assaulted by another inmate, a rate 15 times higher than the overall prison population.

Previously approved by the Assembly, the bill now heads to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who vetoed a similar bill last year.

Also on Wednesday, the Senate approved another Ammiano proposal, the U.S. Blood Donor Nondiscrimination Resolution – Assembly Joint Resolution 13 – by a vote of 22-8.

The resolution calls on the Federal Drug Administration to repeal its rule prohibiting healthy gay and bisexual men from donating blood.

It also puts the state on record in support of updating rules for blood donation, which would increase the number of life-saving blood donations with no increase in risk of disease.

Current federal rules prohibit any man who has had a sexual relationship with another man in the past 31 years from donating blood at any facility, regardless of personal health.

The rule, which was adopted in 1983, targeted gay and bisexual men due to fear of HIV/AIDS transmission, when little was known about the disease or how it is spread.

“Today, a better understanding of the disease and significant innovations in blood screening technology make the fear of HIV/AIDS spreading through the blood supply nearly nonexistent,” an EQCA statement said.

On Tuesday, August 24 the Senate passed the Hate Crimes Protection Act – AB 1680 – by a vote of 22-13.

The bill would exempt hate crimes from mandatory arbitration clauses, which are often included in employment contracts.

AB 1680 would prohibit contracts from requiring an individual to waive his or her legal rights and procedures, guaranteed under the Ralph Civil Rights Act and Bane Civil Rights Act, which provide protections for victims of hate crimes.

Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego) is the bill’s author. Saldaña stated, “Victims of hate crimes shouldn’t be forced to abandon essential rights like a trial by jury simply because they have entered into a contract for employment, housing, education or other goods and services, and if they choose to, that choice should be completely voluntary and not a condition of any contract.”

On Monday, August 23 the Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 28, which calls on the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama to revise the Census survey and to collect data identifying LGBT people living in the U.S.

The resolution, which was authored by Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), passed by a 49-25 vote.

The Census does not currently include questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity. Data collected by the Census, as mandated by the U.S. Constitution, is used to determine the number of seats allocated in the House of Representatives as well as the dissemination of federal funding for hospitals, job training centers, schools, public works projects and emergency services.

“LGBT families and households are disproportionately under served and more likely to live in poverty,” stated Kehoe. “We call on the U.S. Congress and the President to ensure that every person living in the U.S. is counted and has access to culturally competent health and human services.”

Also on Monday, the Senate passed the Unemployment Benefits Act – AB 2055 – by a 23-11 vote.

The bill seeks to ensure that same-sex couples in California have access to unemployment benefits. Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) authored the bill, and it was reviously approved by the Assembly.

Currently, heterosexual couples who are planning to marry are eligible for unemployment benefits if one of the partners loses his or her job. This bill would extend the same rights to same-sex couples planning to enter into a domestic partnership.

“This legislation will give domestic partners fairness under the law, family unity will be preserved, and all committed relationships will be given equal access to benefits,” stated De La Torre.

The bill now moves back to the Assembly floor for a procedural concurrence vote before heading to the governor’s desk.

Matt Connelly, a spokesman for the governor, said none of the bills have made it to Schwarzenegger’s desk yet, and “the governor does not have a position on any of them at this time.”

Connelly noted that once the bills do make it to Schwarzenegger, he’ll have until September 30 to sign or reject them

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— Seth Hemmelgarn, August 27, 2010 @ 12:40 pm PST
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