State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens)
California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law several LGBT-supportive bills this fall that are set to take effect in 2017, including a bill aimed to combat discrimination at universities and legislation designed to prevent youth suicides.
One bill Brown signed into law is Senate Bill 1146, authored by gay state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens).
The legislation requires that private universities that receive public funds publicly disclose whether they discriminate against students based on gender expression, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
If a university has a Title IX exemption, it’s required to notify the state Student Aid Commission and share the information with students and staff. At the federal level, Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and similar factors, in federally funded education programs and activities. Exemptions based on religion may be granted.
“No university should have a license to discriminate, especially those receiving state funds,” Lara said in a news release from Equality California, which sponsored the bill. “Those that do will now have to inform incoming students of their Title IX exemption. This law represents a critical first step in the ongoing efforts to protect students from discrimination for living their truths or loving openly.”
According to EQCA, “Students and staff across the country have reported learning of an exemption only after being expelled from school or fired from their jobs,” and there’s been a large increase in the number of exemptions.
The group said that in 2013, one school was granted an exemption. Now, approximately 43 schools in the U.S. have been exempted, including at least six in California.
“The public needs to know which schools have licenses to discriminate against LGBT people and to ignore California’s civil rights protections,” stated EQCA Executive Director Rick Zbur. “This law will give fair warning to students, staff and faculty members before they accept enrollment or employment at a university with a license to discriminate.”
The law takes effect January 1.
Protecting the lives of school students is the aim of Assembly Bill 2246, authored by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), which Brown signed into law and requires the state’s public schools implement suicide prevention policies that specifically address LGBTQ youths’ needs.
O’Donnell, who chairs the Assembly Education Committee, stated, “As a classroom teacher, I know from experience that educators often serve as the first line of defense when a student is suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts. AB 2246 will provide parents, teachers and schools with the tools they need to help save the lives of at-risk youth.”
EQCA was one of the bill’s sponsors.
“Aside from students’ own families, teachers often spend more time with at-risk kids than anyone else,” Zbur said in a news release. “But it is difficult to help if they don’t recognize the warning signs or have access to resources at their schools. With the first state law in the nation to require middle and high school suicide prevention education that specifically requires attention to the needs of LGBTQ youth, California can now serve as a model for schools nationally.”
The Trevor Project, which works to prevent LGBTQ youth suicide, was another sponsor of the legislation.
“Nearly 20 percent of young people who reach out to the Trevor Project’s suicide prevention programs are from California,” stated Abbe Land, the Trevor Project’s executive director and CEO. “AB 2246 will provide parents, teachers, and schools the tools they need to recognize students at risk for suicide and understand how to help, which will surely decrease the risk among youth in the state.”
The law requires that policies be adopted by the beginning of the 2017-18 school year.
Brown also signed into law two bills that address HIV prevention.
AB 2640, authored by Assemblyman Mike A. Gipson (D-Carson) aims to stop the spread of HIV and save the lives of people who are at high risk of being exposed by providing information about PrEP and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to high-risk patients when HIV test results are negative.
“It is estimated that one in two black gay men and one in four Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if infection rates continue to rise,” Gipson said in a news release. “This is unconscionable. Women of color and transgender individuals are also among the groups at greatest risk for HIV. We now have effective tools like PrEP and PEP that can help end the HIV epidemic, but that won’t happen unless people know about them. With the passage of AB 2640, we are now doing more to make sure that people know about the resources available to protect themselves.”
Craig E. Thompson, CEO of AIDS Project Los Angeles, which sponsored the bill, stated, “We are extremely pleased that Governor Brown has signed this bill into law. This is one of several proposals the governor has supported to increase information about and the availability of PrEP and PEP, and we thank him for his continued leadership on this issue. AB 2640 is a crucial step toward raising awareness about effective HIV prevention tools, reducing new infections, and ending the epidemic in California.”
AB 2439, authored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks), is another HIV-related bill that Brown signed.
The legislation creates a pilot project that will be administered by the state health department that will assess and make recommendations about the effectiveness of routinely offering an HIV test in a hospital emergency room.
Four hospitals, or fewer under specified circumstances, are to be selected for the pilot, which will commence March 1 and end February 28, 2019. By December 1, 2019, the health department is to complete a report with findings and recommendations to the Legislature.
Nazarian’s office didn’t provide comment on the bill’s signing.
AB 1887, legislation authored by gay Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), is a reaction to the transphobic and homophobic laws various states have passed over the last year, most notoriously the state of North Carolina, which continues to be boycotted due to its House Bill 2 that restricts cities in the state from enacting local non-discrimination laws and requires transgender people to use public restrooms based on the gender they were assigned at birth. Brown signed the bill into law in September. It takes effect January 1.