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California Politics

Lines redrawn – Gayborhoods divided into new legislative districts

Redistricting Commission considering draft maps that would divide LA’s LGBTQ+ community threatening to dilute the community’s voting power



Map showing concentrations of LGBTQ population in LA County (Photo credit: EQ Calif. & Redistricting Commission)

LOS ANGELES – Every ten years the United States Census is conducted, the results of which directly impact the apportionment measurements of populations to determine how Americans will be represented in the U.S. House of Representatives. A fair percentage of voters are well-informed and understand this subject matter, but what many don’t realise is the impact the Census also has on the macro levels of representation in state governments.

Every ten years, after the federal census, California must re-establish the boundaries of its Congressional, State Senate, State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization districts to reflect new population data and shifting populations. The Voters FIRST Act gave this power to California citizens ensuring that new and fair political boundaries are drawn without special interests, politics and political influence.” – California Citizens Redistricting Commission website.

California’s 14-member nonpartisan Citizens Redistricting Commission, has led the nation in using the redistricting process to enfranchise LGBTQ voters. In 2010, Equality California and Redistricting Partners led the first statewide effort to create local, state legislative and congressional districts that keep LGBTQ voters together in Los Angeles and West Hollywood, Long Beach, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego and Palm Springs, giving LGBTQ+ neighborhoods the political muscle to elect LGBTQ+ leaders and pro-equality allies.

Before Harvey Milk made history as California’s first openly gay elected official in 1977, he two unsuccessful campaigns for the Board of Supervisors in 1973 and 1975, when San Francisco’s supervisors were chosen in citywide at-large elections. It was only when the city transitioned to district-based elections that voters in the Castro — LGBTQ people, artists and immigrants — finally had the power to elect one of their own to the Board.

In 1990, a group of LGBTQ leaders in San Diego got together and advocated for a city council district uniting the LGBTQ communities around Hillcrest and Balboa Park — a district that has since elected an unbroken line of LGBTQ trailblazers like Christine Kehoe, Toni Atkins, Todd Gloria and Chris Ward, all of whom have gone on to serve in higher office.

On the Westside of Los Angeles, the LGBTQ community helped elect Sheila Kuehl the first out lesbian to the California Assembly in 1994 — then reelected her three more times, sent her to the Senate in 2000 and helped her become the first openly LGBTQ+ supervisor in Los Angeles County history in 2014.

These are just a handful of examples of how redistricting — the one-every-decade process of redrawing district boundaries for local, state and federal politicians based on new census results — can empower historically marginalized communities like LGBTQ people.

When communities are kept together and united in a single district, they have greater opportunity to elect “candidates of choice” — leaders from the community and allies who are responsive to their LGBTQ+ constituents’ unique economic, health and social needs. 

Over the last 11 months, Equality California and Redistricting Partners have sought to replicate and scale that success, working with local community partners in the same historically LGBTQ+ regions, as well as emerging LGBTQ+ communities in the East Bay and Silicon Valley.

The 2021 Citizens Redistricting Commission — which draws new lines every 10 years for congressional, state legislative and Board of Equalization districts — has been receptive to the groups’ arguments, once again recognizing the LGBTQ+ community as a “community of interest” that should be united in the redistricting process.

Indeed, both the California Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandate that such communities of interest be taken into account when states draw new district boundaries, and the California Constitution extends the requirement to local redistricting processes.

Despite this commitment by the 14-member commission to help empower LGBTQ+ Californians by keeping geographically connecting communities together in single districts, the Commission is now considering draft maps that would divide the heart of Los Angeles’s LGBTQ+ community in Hollywood and West Hollywood between multiple state assembly, state senate and congressional districts — threatening to dilute the community’s voting power in any one district.

Hollywood and West Hollywood — which are currently united in a single district at all three levels of government — are home to one of the densest LGBTQ populations in the nation. Their connected business districts feature LGBTQ-owned bars, restaurants and retail businesses. The communities share culture, character and recreation, with only an invisible municipal boundary separating neighbors and small business owners on opposite sides of the street.

By using this city boundary to divide the united community among multiple state legislative and congressional districts, the 2021 Citizens Redistricting Commission threatens to undo the hard work of their 2011 predecessors, who worked diligently to consolidate — and thereby empower — LGBTQ Angelenos a decade ago. And they’re considering similar divisions right through the hearts of historic LGBTQ communities at the congressional level in Long Beach and the state assembly and senate levels in San Diego. 

LGBTQ people may not have their sexual orientations and gender identities counted by the U.S. census, but organizations like Equality California are doing the hard but necessary work to count LGBTQ+ residents and identify their geographically connected communities.

It would be a colossal failure for California’s redistricting commissioners to disregard and disempower the LGBTQ community by arbitrarily and unnecessarily dividing dense LGBTQ neighborhoods between multiple congressional and state legislative districts — whether by splitting Hollywood and West Hollywood or carving up the LGBTQ communities of Long Beach, San Diego, the Bay Area, Sacramento or the Coachella Valley,” said Samuel Garrett-Pate, Managing Director of External Affairs for Equality California.

As of Wednesday, Los Angeles’ primary ‘Gayborhood’ remains divided with the newly redrawn Assembly and Senate districts.

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California Politics

Abortion rights: California Constitutional Amendment heads to ballot

The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women



Capitol building in Sacramento (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – In November, California voters will have an opportunity to amend the state’s constitution to include the right to an abortion and today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to further protect women coming to California from other states.

“California will not back down from the fight to protect abortion rights as more than half the states in this country, enabled by the Supreme Court, ban or severely restrict access,” said Newsom. “We are ensuring Californians will have the opportunity this November to enshrine the right to choose in our state constitution. And we’re not waiting until November to take action, today’s executive order ensures that the state will not hand over patients who come here to receive care and will not extradite doctors who provide care to out-of-state patients here. In California, women will remain protected.”  

The order signed today prevents any information, including medical records and patient data, from being shared by state agencies or departments in response to inquiries or investigations brought by other states or individuals within those states looking to restrict access. The state is expanding efforts to protect women seeking abortions or reproductive care as well as anyone assisting those women.

SCA 10 was passed by the California State Assembly today and now heads to the November ballot.  

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last Friday, Governor Newsom signed legislation to help protect patients and providers in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care in the state. In addition, Governor Newsom and the governors of Oregon and Washington launched a new Multi-State Commitment to defend access to reproductive health care and protect patients and providers.  

The budget agreement announced yesterday includes more than $200 million in additional funding for reproductive health care services. Governor Newsom recently signed legislation eliminating copays for abortion care services and has signed into law a legislative package to further strengthen access and protect patients and providers.  

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California Politics

Newsom, Senate & Assembly leaders announce budget agreement

23 million Californians will benefit from direct payments of up to $1,050 & additional funds to help people pay rent & utility bills



Governor Newsom with some of the state's leadership Friday (Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced they had were able to reach an agreement on the framework for the 2022-23 state budget.

In a statement released Sunday evening, the state’s leadership said:

“California’s budget addresses the state’s most pressing needs, and prioritizes getting dollars back into the pockets of millions of Californians who are grappling with global inflation and rising prices of everything from gas to groceries.

“The centerpiece of the agreement, a $17 billion inflation relief package, will offer tax refunds to millions of working Californians. Twenty-three million Californians will benefit from direct payments of up to $1,050. The package will also include a suspension of the state sales tax on diesel, and additional funds to help people pay their rent and utility bills.

“In addition, California is doubling down in our response to the climate crisis – securing additional power-generating capacity for the summer, accelerating our clean energy future, expanding our ability to prepare for and respond to severe wildfires, extreme heat, and the continuing drought conditions that lie ahead.

“This budget builds on our unprecedented commitment to transform the resources available in our state, from a $47 billion multi-year infrastructure and transportation package to education and health care, showing the nation what a true pro-life agenda looks like. With these new investments, California will become the first state to achieve universal access to health care coverage.

Newsom and his legislative counterparts also highlighted that in the wake of Friday’s stunning U.S. Supreme Court decision, California is reaffirming its commitment to defending reproductive rights, providing more than $200 million in additional funding for reproductive health care services. The state will also be investing in key programs that help California families, from funding for homeownership programs and billions of dollars in additional ongoing funding for education, to universal preschool, children’s mental health, and free school meals.

“In the face of growing economic uncertainty, this budget invests in California’s values while further filling the state’s budget reserves and building in triggers for future state spending to ensure budget stability for years to come,” the statement read.

Yesterday the governor and the leadership agreed to the framework to offset the high cost of gas prices and the hit inflation has created on the wallets of taxpayers, particularly those who least able to bear the added cost burden. Under the budget compromise most California taxpayers would get hundreds of dollars in cash to help offset the high price of fuel and other goods.

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California Politics

Delayed repeal of loitering law targeting sex workers sent to Newsom

SB 357 repeals “loitering with intent to engage in prostitution” law, which results in harassment of transwomen & women of color sex workers



Sex workers under arrest by the LASD (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) sent Senate Bill 357, the Safer Streets for All Act, to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his action Monday. The Legislature passed SB 357 last year, but Senator Wiener held the bill at the Senate desk, delaying its transmittal to the Governor.

Governor Newsom will have 12 days to sign the bill after it is processed by the Senate. SB 357 repeals a provision of California law criminalizing “loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution.” This criminal provision — arrests for which are based on an officer’s subjective perception of whether a person is “acting like” or “looks like” they intend to engage in sex work — results in the disproportionate criminalization of trans, Black and Brown women, and perpetuates violence toward sex workers.

SB 357 is sponsored by a large coalition made up of former and current sex workers, LGTBQ groups like Equality California and Transgender Gender-variant and Intersex Justice Project (TGIJP), and civil rights groups like the ACLU. The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (CAST LA) is supporting the legislation.

SB 357 does not decriminalize soliciting or engaging in sex work. Rather, it simply eliminates an loitering offense that leads to harmful treatment of people for simply “appearing” to be a sex worker.

This crime is so subjective and inherently profiling that it allows a police officer to arrest someone purely based on how they are dressed, whether they’re wearing high heels and certain kinds of make-up, how they’re wearing their hair, and the like. This criminal provision is inherently discriminatory and targets people not for any action but simply based on how they look. People who engage in sex work deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Criminalizing sex work does not make sex workers or communities safer. Most criminal penalties for sex workers, loitering laws included, do nothing to stop sex crimes against sex workers and human trafficking. In fact, loitering laws make it harder to identify trafficking victims; trafficking victims are often afraid to come forward in fear of being arrested or incarcerated. 

In February of 2021, a similar piece of legislation to repeal this type of loitering ban became law in New York. SB 357 is part of the movement to end discrimination against and violence toward sex workers, especially the most targeted communities — trans, Black, and Brown people. SB 357 is co-sponsored by Positive Women’s Network – USA, St. James Infirmary, SWOP LA, Trans [email protected] Coalition, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, Equality California and ACLU California Action. 

Under current law, it is a crime to loiter in a public place with the “intent” to commit a sex work-related offense. But this law can be broadly interpreted, and thus allows for discriminatory application against the LGBTQ community and people of color. Law enforcement can use a non-exhaustive list of circumstances to subjectively determine if someone “intends” to engage in sex work, including factors such as speaking with other pedestrians, being in an area where sex work has occurred before, wearing revealing clothing, or moving in a certain way.

Because current law regarding loitering is highly subjective and vague, law enforcement officers disproportionately profile and target Black and Brown transgender women by stopping and arresting people for discriminatory and inappropriate reasons. This is how Black and Brown transgender women get arrested and cited for simply walking on the street. It also gives law enforcement the ability to more easily target and arrest sex workers.

People in the LGBTQ, Black, and Brown communities report high rates of police misconduct throughout the United States and are disproportionately affected by police violence. Transgender people who have done street-based sex work are more than twice as likely to report physical assault by police officers and four times as likely to report sexual assault by police.

A Black person is 3.5 times more likely to be shot by police than a white person. These statistics are a daily reality that transgender, Black and Brown people face and lead to mistrust of law enforcement.

SB 357 will repeal a discriminatory law that makes it a crime to loiter with the intent to engage in sex work, given that it fails to prevent street-based sex work and disproportionately results in the criminalization of transgender people and communities of color.

“This Pride Month, as we see a surge in violence against and harassment of the LGTBQ community, it is more important than ever to get rid of a law that targets our community,” said Wiener. “Current law essentially allows law enforcement to target and arrest people if they are wearing tight clothes or a lot of make-up. Many of those impacted by this law are Black and Brown trans women. Pride isn’t just about rainbow flags and parades. It’s about protecting the most marginalized in our community. I urge Governor Newsom to sign SB 357.”

“SB 357 repeals a Jim Crow law that criminalized Black and trans people in public spaces,” said Fatima Shabazz of the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“We hope that the Safer Streets for All Act will help people understand how policing does not create public safety, and will immediately deprive police of one tool they use to harass and oppress folks based on race and gender,” said Ashley Madness of SWOP LA and the DecrimSexWorkCA Coalition.

“Ahora nosotros nos sentimos libre de caminar en la calle sin miedo que la policia nos vaya a arrestar,” (Now we can walk free on the streets without fear of the police arresting us,”) said Lisseth Sánchez of St. James Infirmary and the DecrimSexWorkCA

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