California passes slate of LGBTQ protections

California passes slate of LGBTQ protections

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a slate of legislation that strengthens protections for LGBTQ Californians.

“California is proud to have some of the most robust laws in the nation when it comes to protecting and supporting our LGBTQ+ community, and we’re committed to the ongoing work to create safer, more inclusive spaces for all Californians,” said Newsom on Saturday. “These measures will help protect vulnerable youth, promote acceptance, and create more supportive environments in our schools and communities."

The move was applauded by LGBTQ activists.

“While states across the nation are passing legislation that puts LGBTQ+ people and especially youth at risk, California is sending a clear message today — hate-filled attacks will not be tolerated and we will continue protecting and ensuring the safety of all members of the LGBTQ+ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang.

PHOTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 2, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., on May 2, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)

Newsom received criticism from some LGBTQ advocates, however, when he vetoed a bill -- Assembly Bill 957 -- that would have required courts to consider parents’ acceptance of children’s gender identities in custody disputes.

"My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child," said Assemblywoman Lori D. Wilson in a statement following the veto.

This is the list of policies that passed:

AB 5: The Safe and Supportive Schools Act

This law is intended on implementing cultural competency training programs so teachers "have the tools and training they need to support and meet the needs of LGBTQ+ pupils" and that "California schools are safe and supportive for all pupils, teachers, and other certificated employees," according to the legislation.

"California schools face an urgent need for professional development to increase the number of school staff who are equipped to intervene in, and effectively respond to, incidents of bullying or harassment and to increase the number of school staff available to support LGBTQ+ students," said Assembly member Rick Chavez Zbur in a press release on the legislation.

This will go into effect starting with the 2025-26 school year.

AB 223: Transgender Youth Privacy Act

This law requires courts to seal any petition for a change of gender or sex identifier filed by a minor to protect their privacy. This does not affect the petitioning process, but instead "helps prevent online discovery of documents leading to outing and harassment."

“This bill will secure the safety and privacy of so many California youth,” said Kathie Moehlig, Executive Director of TransFamily Support Services. “Transgender and nonbinary youth are navigating a world of hate daily. By sealing the name and gender marker change records, we are bringing the courts in line with the laws around schools not outing students ... Keeping these records public puts many students at high risk for bullying, hatred, and even violence."

This will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

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SB 760: All-gender restrooms in schools

This law would require that all K-12 schools in the state be required to provide accessible all-gender bathrooms. The law mandates that there be a sufficient number of all-gender restrooms available for students and that they remain unlocked during school hours.

Under current law, schools are not explicitly required to provide gender-neutral restrooms, according to state Sen. Josh Newman, who is behind the legislation.

"As a consequence, the frequent lack of easily accessed, explicitly gender-neutral restrooms at schools across the state remains problematic for students who do not identify with the traditional binary genders," said Newman in a press release.

SB 857: LGBTQ advisory task force in schools

This law will require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to form an advisory task force to identify statewide needs of LGBTQ+ students and make recommendations on policies that will be supportive for their well-being. This includes research into the mental health needs and feelings of safety and support, access to inclusive and safe facilities at school, inclusive instructional materials, and more.

"On or before January 1, 2026," the advisory task force will report their findings and recommendations to the state legislature, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the governor, according to the legislation.

PHOTO: People participate in the annual LA Pride Parade on June 11, 2023 in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (David Mcnew/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: People participate in the annual LA Pride Parade on June 11, 2023 in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles. (David Mcnew/Getty Images, FILE)

SB 407: Foster care

This policy requires that foster families be able to demonstrate "an ability and willingness to meet the needs of a child," regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Caregivers will need to complete training -- before being approved to be a caregiver and every year after -- that offers the necessary knowledge and skills to support children of all identities and abilities.

"Foster youth have a right to be placed in out-of-home care according to their gender identity and the right to have caregivers that have received instruction on cultural competency and sensitivity relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and best practices for providing adequate care to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender children in out-of-home care," read the legislation.

It continued, "LGBTQ foster youth are currently being placed in non-affirming families that have been approved by counties and the state, causing additional harm and trauma."

AB 760: Gender identity affirmation

This law will require California State University campuses to be able to allow current students, staff, or faculty to declare an affirmed name, gender, or both name and gender identification starting in this 2023–24 academic year. The legislation would request the same of University of California campuses.

The bill would also prohibit the California State University campuses from charging a higher fee for correcting, updating, or reissuing a document or record based on the declaration of gender affirmation than it would be to make a change otherwise. The same will be requested of University of California campuses.

AB 783: All-gender restrooms in businesses

This law would require that each applicant for a new or renewed business license or permit be notified that all single-user toilet facilities must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.

"The Legislature finds and declares that access to gender-neutral single-user restrooms is a matter of safety and inclusiveness to all and thus is a matter of statewide concern," read the legislation.

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AB 994: Names and pronouns of arrestees

This policy would require a police department or sheriff’s office to use the name and pronouns given by the individual arrested when posting a booking photo on social media.

However, law enforcement may use other legal names or known aliases if "using the names or aliases will assist in locating or apprehending the individual or reducing or eliminating an imminent threat to an individual or to public safety."

SB 372: License and registration name changes

This law would require licenses to be replaced if there are references to a former gender or name, with proof of government-issued documentation of the change. The former name will need to be removed from online license verification systems, but there will need to be a process in place to provide former names and genders in the event of a complaint against the licensee or registrant.

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