SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California Senate Health Committee advanced legislation authored by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by Equality California to mandate the collection and reporting of sexual orientation and gender identity data for all COVID-19 patients in a bipartisan 9-0 vote Wednesday morning. Senator Wiener and Equality California introduced the bill in early May in response to the state’s failure to collect data about the crisis’s impacts on the LGBTQ+ community — depriving both the government and LGBTQ+ community leaders of invaluable information needed to protect LGBTQ+ Californians.
“We’re grateful to Senator Wiener, President Pro Tem Atkins and Senator Pan for their leadership in advancing this critical legislation,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “But frankly, I am disappointed that we even need this bill in the first place, and that LGBTQ+ people need to plead to our government to take very basic steps to protect our health. God knows I’ve been to too many funerals and said too many goodbyes while my government looked the other way during the AIDS crisis. We can’t let that happen again. Not now. Not in 2020. Not in the state of California.”
Given that California is already collecting data on race, age, and sex with respect to cases of COVID-19, SB 932 requires collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data for all COVID-19 patients. (As with all demographic data, no one will be required to answer this demographic question, though every patient will be asked.)
“Today, we took a big step forward in passing an important piece of health legislation for the COVID-19 era,” said Senator Wiener. “SB 932 will allow us to understand COVID-19’s impact on the LGBTQ community, which has long been forgotten or underserved in the public health world. It will ensure no one gets left behind, and set the stage for broader and more equitable access to healthcare for the long term.”
On Tuesday, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California had tested over 1 million people and is now testing over 30,000 people per day. While these are significant accomplishments, they also underscore the urgency of collecting this data. With each passing day, significant amounts of invaluable data are lost forever. If LGBTQ+ people are left out of the 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. But until today, when Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that the Commonwealth would begin collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data, there was no state or national effort to collect data on how COVID-19 is impacting the LGTBQ+ community – a group that has historically been overlooked by our public health infrastructure.
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). The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon and California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network Director Amanda McAllister Wallner joined Zbur and Senator Wiener at a press conference Wednesday morning in support of the bill.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org