New laws ring in 2013
by Seth Hemmelgarn
Several LGBT-related bills took effect Tuesday, January 1, but the implementation of one piece of legislation signed into law in 2012 is being delayed.
Meanwhile, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) indicated he's interested in addressing condoms being used as evidence of prostitution, among other legislative possibilities in the new year.
Senate Bill 1172, California's groundbreaking law banning the use of reparative therapy on people younger than 18, was set to go into effect this week. However, as reported last week, a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel issued an emergency order December 21 delaying enactment pending the appeals court's review of a lawsuit.
The underlying lawsuit is Pickup v. Brown , pressed by four mental health professionals, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, the American Association of Christian Counselors, and two "Jack and Jane Doe" plaintiff couples on behalf of two "John Doe" minors.
The plaintiffs' request for an emergency order argued that the John Doe minors would face "immediate and irreparable harm to their physical, emotional, and mental health," and that the mental health practitioners would suffer damage to their careers, if the law is allowed to go into effect.
Governor Jerry Brown signed the law, which bans state licensed mental health professionals from engaging in reparative or conversion therapy with minors, in September.
Although one LGBT-related law is stalled for now, it appears there could be plenty to look forward to.
In an emailed statement, Ammiano said, "It is still very early in the new session and I have not finalized my legislation package," but he's asked his staff to research several issues that he's interested in.
Among those, he said, is "HIV/AIDS prevention, including the possession of condoms being used against folks in prostitution charges."
The San Francisco Police Department was criticized this past summer after the Bay Area Reporter found contradictory policies within the department over the seizure of condoms from people suspected of prostitution. Police Chief Greg Suhr later announced that officers would no longer confiscate condoms as evidence of prostitution and issued a bulletin to department personnel. Condoms can still be photographed.
Ammiano, who is gay, said he's also interested in addressing the needs of homeless youth, especially those who are LGBT; continuing his work on school safety and bullying prevention; pursuing his efforts to provide better services to LGBT foster youth; educational equity for transgender youth in the state's schools; and "clarifying places in the law where same-sex married couples and legally registered domestic partners are still treated differently than opposite-sex married couples."
The assemblyman also mentioned the Ellis Act, which the California Legislature enacted in 1985 and enables landlords who wish to go out of the rental business to evict tenants.
"Ellis Act evictions can have greater impacts on the chronically ill and have displaced or threatened to displace AIDS patients," Ammiano said. "We hope to meet with housing advocates in January."
Ammiano also referred to two bills related to LGBTs and others that he introduced December 3.
AB 4, the Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools (TRUST) Act, addresses immigration issues.
"For decades, same-sex couples have been unable to get equal immigration benefits," he said.
AB 5, the Homeless Person's Bill of Rights and Fairness Act, "promotes dignity for all homeless, including those who may be doubly stigmatized for LGBT issues," Ammiano said.
Finally, he said, "Regulation of medical marijuana, which I've introduced before, is of special interest to many of those people living with AIDS. Hearings on regulation will take place in the Legislature in January."
Bills taking effect
Unlike SB 1172, the anti-reparative therapy bill, other laws did go into effect this week.
AB 1505, authored by Assemblyman Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento), is related to the repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gays serving openly in the military. The legislation reinstates California veterans benefits, rescinded due to a discharge based solely on sexual orientation, automatically when the federal government does the same. The new law also directs the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide resources from veterans' legal services organizations that specialize in discharge upgrades and claims representation.
Gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) saw success with a bill that Brown signed last year; former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed similar legislation.
SB 1140 specifies that no priest, minister, rabbi, or authorized person of any religious denomination is required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith. Refusal to solemnize a marriage under that provision won't affect the tax-exempt status of any entity.
Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) authored AB 2356, which ensures that women in same-sex relationships can access fertility services on the same terms as women in opposite-sex relationships.
Another new law, former Assemblywoman Betsy Butler's (D-Marina Del Rey) AB 1700, is designed to keep LGBTs from losing their homes when a partner dies. The bill excludes a transfer of co-tenancy interest in a principal residence from property tax reassessment if two people owned the principal residence and it was transferred to one of them when the other died, and the survivor obtains sole ownership.
AB 1960, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, (D-Sacramento) requires the state Department of General Services to report on the participation levels of LGBT businesses in state contracts that has been voluntarily reported as of January 1, 2013.
Ammiano saw three LGBT-related bills signed into law in 2012.
AB 1729 expands the current list of alternatives to suspension and expulsion for superintendents and principals in the state school discipline codes. It also requires schools to document alternative means of correction taken prior to suspension or expulsion.
Finding alternatives to suspension and expulsion have been seen as a way to address bullying of LGBT students.
Another Ammiano bill, AB 1856, requires the training for an administrator of a group home facility, licensed foster parent, and relative or nonrelative extended family member caregiver, to also include instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to, and best practices for, providing adequate care to LGBT youth in out-of-home care.
Finally, Ammiano's AB 401 deletes an obsolete provision from the Carl Washington School Safety and Violence Prevention Act that specifies sexual orientation shall not include pedophilia.
The governor also signed SB 987, which involves same-sex couples. The new law, authored by state Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino) changes sections of the government code administered by the California Public Employees' Retirement Board, including code sections governing the California Public Employees' Retirement System, among other systems. Provisions include clarifying references to "spouse," "surviving spouse," and "marriage" apply equally to a registered domestic partner, or partnership, to the extent provided by the domestic partnership provisions in the state family code.
The statewide LGBT lobbying group Equality California backed several pieces of successful legislation in 2012, but it's not clear what the organization will be promoting this year. New Executive Director John O'Connor, who started his post in December, wasn't available for comment for this story.
In an email, EQCA spokesman Steve Roth said O'Connor wanted to wait "until we have more specific information to share, as the work is in the preliminary development stage."
Roth said EQCA has renewed Alice Kessler's contract to serve for another year as legislative advocate. Additionally, Roth said, the nonprofit has hired Jo Michael as a legislative associate.
Kessler, who previously served as EQCA's government relations director from 2005 to 2009, returned to the organization in December 2011.
Over the years, EQCA has successfully backed bills that promote everything from housing rights to school safety. O'Connor recently indicated the agency would focus on helping to ensure that state laws are adequately implemented.
"EQCA is particularly interested in ensuring the full implementation of all legislation related to safe schools, which will be achieved in part through the efforts of the Safe Schools Audit, which we sought and secured in 2012," Roth said.
The estimated release date for the audit, which covers school safety and non-discrimination laws, is June.