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California Senate approves HIV & Aging Act

The HIV & Aging Act would ensure older people living with HIV have access to the programs and services administered through the California Department of Aging.

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SACRAMENTO – The California Senate advanced SB 258, the HIV and Aging Act, by a bipartisan vote of 36-0 Thursday. Introduced by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), SB 258 would update the definition of “greatest social need” in the Welfare and Institutions Code to include older people living with HIV.

The HIV & Aging Act would ensure older people living with HIV — who are likely to turn to government and community-based services due to multiple comorbidities, behavioral and mental health issues and limited social support — have access to the programs and services administered through the California Department of Aging.

Following Illinois in 2019, California would be only the second state to designate older adults with HIV as a target population of “greatest social need.” The legislation is co-sponsored by Equality California, SAGE, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and APLA Health.

Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) (Photo Credit: California Senate)

With recent advancements in HIV treatment, people with HIV who take antiretroviral therapy can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, the number of older people living with HIV is increasing and over half of people living with HIV in California are now aged 50 years or older.

However, older people with HIV continue to face unique challenges and barriers in health and well-being. A 2020 report by SAGE’s HIV and Aging Policy Action Coalition (HAPAC) identified that older people with HIV are more likely than their HIV-negative counterparts to have multiple comorbidities, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, fractures, and hepatitis C.

Older people with HIV also face a number of behavioral health challenges, including rates of depression up to five times greater than their HIV-negative peers and greater levels of stigma, social isolation and loneliness.

“Older Californians living with HIV are among our most resilient friends, family and loved ones, and our state must be responsive to their unique needs.” said Equality California Legislative Director Tami A. Martin. “With the approval of Senator Laird’s HIV and Aging Act today, we are one step closer to ensuring that not a single one of our elders living with HIV has to go without food assistance, job training, transportation or any other vital service. The LGBTQ+ community will continue to advocate for older Californians living with HIV until they are treated with the dignity and respect that they deserve.”

“APLA Health applauds the Senate for voting to pass SB 258, which is an important step toward ensuring that older people with HIV have the support they need to stay healthy and thrive,” said APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson. “The bill makes it clear that programs administered by the California Department of Aging should be tailored to address the unique set of challenges faced by people with HIV as they grow older. Now, we call on the Governor and legislature to go even further and allocate new resources in the state budget to expand much-needed programs and services for this rapidly growing population.

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California

California’s LGBTQ Pride week 2021, Capitol Lighting

The building will be illuminated for the week, marking just the second time in California’s history that Pride colors have donned the dome

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California Capitol Building illuminated for Pride 2021 (Photo by Nune Garipian 2021)

SACRAMENTO — The California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and partner organizations held a press event and lighting ceremony, Monday, June 21, for the illumination of the California State Capitol Dome in rainbow colors to kick off a weeklong recognition of Pride Month.

The building will remain illuminated for the entire week, marking just the second time in California’s history that Pride colors have donned the dome. The first lighting occurred after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage equality.

The ceremony is part of a citywide initiative to put light installations at additional Sacramento landmarks, including City Hall, Sutter’s Fort, and the Museum of Science and Curiosity. The lighting initiative is the brainchild of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center and the first of its kind for the region.

Speakers and participants included Assemblymember Evan Low, Chair of the CA Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Senator Scott Wiener, former Chair of the CA Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman, Vice Chair of the CA Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, California’s Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Senator John Laird, Alexis Sanchez, Director of Advocacy for the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, Tony Hoang, Executive Director-designate for Equality California, Tami Martin, External Affairs Director for the Capitol LGBTQ Association and Legislative LGBTQ Caucus members and community stakeholders.

Editor’s note: The Los Angeles Blade thanks the efforts of the event’s photographer, Nune Garipian, who is responsible for covering the event on behalf of the Blade. All photographs are [Copyright Garipian 2021] and are used by permission.

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California

9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocks lower court overturn of assault rifle ban

Benitez ruled that California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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SAN FRANCISCO – In a ruling issued Monday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay of U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez’s controversial decision to overturn California’s assault weapons ban on June 4. The ruling will be on hold until the 9th Circuit court decides on a separate gun control case.

Benitez ruled that California’s three-decade-old ban on assault weapons violates the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state had first crafted the ban in 1989 and in the intervening thirty-two years lawmakers in Sacramento had repeatedly amended the law.

Benitez overturned the ban and likened an AR-15 semiautomatic gun to a Swiss army knife, calling it “good for both home and battle.” California Governor Gavin Newsom took exception to the comparative made by Judge Benitez remarking at the time;

“Today’s decision is a direct threat to public safety and the lives of innocent Californians, period. As the son of a judge, I grew up with deep respect for the judicial process and the importance of a judge’s ability to make impartial fact-based rulings, but the fact that this judge compared the AR-15 – a weapon of war that’s used on the battlefield – to a Swiss Army Knife completely undermines the credibility of this decision and is a slap in the face to the families who’ve lost loved ones to this weapon. We’re not backing down from this fight, and we’ll continue pushing for common sense gun laws that will save lives.”

The Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 (AWCA) is a California law that bans the ownership and transfer of over 50 specific brands and models of semi-automatic firearms, which were classified as assault weapons. Most were rifles, but some were pistols and shotguns.

The case, Miller v. Bonta (previously Miller v. Becerra) had been brought by the  Firearms Policy Coalition, (FPC) which in 2019, developed and filed the suit as a federal Second Amendment challenge to California’s Assault Weapons Control Act (AWCA). The FPC argued that the State’s ban prohibits arms that are constitutionally protected, no more lethal than other certain arms that are not banned, and commonly possessed and used for lawful purposes in the vast majority of the United States.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta had appealed Benitez’s ruling. On Monday he said in a tweet; “This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue. We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws.”

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Orange County

Disney honors Pride month and keeps some pandemic rules for now

“I was lost, desperate to connect with someone who understood what I was feeling. That all changed when I arrived at Disneyland.”

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Graphic via the Walt Disney Company's Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Division

ANAHEIM – The Walt Disney Company’s Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, (DPEP) is celebrating and honoring Pride this year, highlighting its LGBTQ employees as well as supporting a welcoming and embracing work environment where LGBTQ+ cast members are encouraged to be their authentic selves.

Writing for the company’s blog, Michelle Mockler, DPEP’s External Communications Manager profiled  James Heath, a Senior Duty Manager at the Disneyland California Adventure Park. Heath, who has been employed by the Disney company since he was 17, related his personal experiences with Disney that he said shaped not only his career as an employee but as a gay man as well.

In the winter of 2000, Heath applied for a job position in hopes of fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a cast member, a term that Disney describes it employees as. After several interviews, James was offered a cast member role as a Food & Beverage Host.

According to Heath, he didn’t realise that position working at Disneyland had just given him something far more important than a job… “It gave me a place to belong,” he told Mockler.

Mockler writes that just two years prior, Heath had made the decision to come out as gay. At 15 years old, he found himself as the only openly gay student in his school.

“While I was fortunate to have supportive family and friends by my side, I was missing something truly critical at this time in my life: Other people like me. I was lost, desperate to connect with someone who understood what I was feeling. That all changed when I arrived at Disneyland.”

At Disney, James found himself working alongside other LGBTQ+ cast members. He found people, with whom he could share stories, compare experiences and talk through challenges.

“Being gay was no different to my coworkers and leaders than any of the other countless qualities that make each of us unique.”

Twenty-one years later, the now thirty-eight year old Senior Disney Manager related; “Sometimes I wonder who I would be today had I not had this safe place to grow into my own skin. I was fortunate to have allies who courageously pushed against outdated ideas to give me a safe place to thrive.”

Heath says that he’s found himself in the role of leader, mentor, ally and advocate.

“It’s my turn to give back and help to further our culture of inclusivity. Somewhere out there, a future cast member is looking for a place where they can belong. I’m committed to helping them find it at Disney.”

As Disney celebrates Pride Month, this past week as the State of California lifted most of the restrictions imposed by California state and local health officials and Governor Gavin Newsom. However, Disney officials have decided to keep in place for the time being some of those measures.

“I don’t want to say we are going to go back to the way it was,” Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said Thursday about managing the parks. “I want to be really smart in the way we do this.”

The parks at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim in Orange County are continuing to reopen in phases, but a handful of the COVID-era changes are going to stick.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times this past week, D’Amaro said that the company is poised to keep “in place a reservation system that was adopted to manage visitor numbers under the state-imposed capacity limits and the continued use of a virtual queuing system that was designed to give all parkgoers a shot at visiting the most popular attractions.”

Currently valid theme park admission as well as a confirmed park reservation about both required if a guest wishes to visit either Disneyland or Disney California Adventure. Park Pass Reservations are also currently required at Disney World.

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