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Fresno Pacific LGBTQ+ students demand an accreditation investigation

FPU administration denied LGBTQ+ students the ability to form their own Pride club offering safety and protection to Queer and Trans students

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60 LGBTQ+ students, allies, and supporters gathered on the campus of Fresno Pacific University (Photo by Erin Green)

FRESNO- Last week more than 60 LGBTQ+ students, allies, and supporters gathered on the campus of Fresno Pacific University, (FPU) demonstrating against the university administration’s open discrimination against Queer and Trans students on its campus.

The students were joined by campus & alumni organizers from the Portland, Oregon-based Religious Exemption Accountability Project, (REAP) to support and speak publicly against the university’s recurring harmful actions targeting its LGBTQ+ student body.

In 2021, the FPU administration denied LGBTQ+ students the ability to form their own Pride club offering safety and protection to Queer and Trans students attending the college. These same students filed a formal WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation complaint against the school and called for a formal investigation to take place. 

FPU has a lengthy anti-LGBTQ+ record. For the past decade, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Campus Pride has listed Fresno Pacific University on its annual Worst List, naming 180 campuses across the country as “the absolute worst, most unsafe campuses for LGBTQ youth.”

The colleges and universities included in this year’s list have either received or applied for a Title IX religious exemption to openly discriminate against LGBTQ youth, or they have a demonstrated history of anti-LGBTQ policies, programs and practices.

In the case of FPU, Campus Pride noted Fresno Pacific University has qualified for the Worst List because it holds an exemption to Title IX, allowing the college to discriminate against its students on the basis of gender identity while still receiving federal funds.

Fresno Pacific University has also qualified for the Worst List because it worked to dismantle SB 1146, a California bill designed to protect LGBTQ students from discrimination at their Christian college or university.

Campus History

REAP’s Campus and Alumni Organizer, Erin Green noted: “The purpose of this peaceful demonstration was to reinforce the LGBTQ+ student’s  message to the accrediting body, that WASC should indeed investigate the discriminatory actions taken by administrators.”

“Since 2021, REAP has been helping the LGBTQ+ student leaders of Birds for Pride organize and take measures to solidify their rights at Fresno Pacific University. REAP demonstrates its full solidarity with the Queer and Trans students at FPU. We wholeheartedly stand by Birds for Pride in the midst of the harms done to them and the ongoing discrimination against LGBTQ+ students on the Fresno Pacific Campus. We will continue to support Birds for Pride  in ongoing efforts toward equity, dignity, and safety,” Green added.

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California

California to build more housing; Student housing bill signed

Legislation signed today will create much-needed new housing units aimed at helping middle and low income Californians

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Governor Newsom gives remarks at future site of affordable housing community in San Francisco (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SAN FRANCISCO – Building on California’s historic efforts to tackle the housing crisis, Governor Gavin Newsom today signed legislation to streamline the housing approval process in California and create thousands of good paying jobs. Governor Newsom also announced $1 billion in awards to 30 shovel-ready projects through the California Housing Accelerator – creating 2,755 new homes for Californians.

“California has made historic investments and taken unprecedented actions to tackle the state’s housing crisis over the past four years,” said Governor Newsom. “But we recognize there’s more work to do – this package of smart, much-needed legislation will help us build new homes while rebuilding the middle class. I’m thankful for the leadership of the Legislature for stepping up to meet this moment to help address the affordability crisis that stretches across the entire nation.”

Governor Newsom signed the housing package alongside legislative, local, housing, and labor leaders, at the future site of an affordable housing community in San Francisco.

“SB 6 and AB 2011 are game changers when it comes to producing desperately needed housing for all income levels,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins. “These two bills are the culmination of many years of work to find solutions that streamline the regulatory process and ensure that workers building homes are being paid a fair wage. I applaud Senator Anna Caballero and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks for their dynamic teamwork and tireless dedication to serving their communities, and our state. I’m grateful to Governor Newsom for signing these bills, and to Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire, Speaker Anthony Rendon, and our labor partners for helping make this victory possible. With these laws in place, we will soon see more building and more jobs, and more families will be able to achieve the California Dream.”

“Today’s signings demonstrate that we can make real progress on improving California’s housing outlook, despite the many challenges we face,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. “In particular, AB 2011 shows what can be accomplished when disparate advocates team up on a critical goal. And, of course, the Assembly is proud to have been able to team up with the Senate and the Governor to make this all a reality.”

AB 2011 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) and SB 6 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced) together will:

  • Help create much-needed new housing units for low and middle income Californians by allowing housing to be built in underutilized commercial sites currently zoned for retail, office, and parking uses.
  • Generate thousands of jobs with health benefits and good wages – and encourage apprenticeships.
  • Increase use of public transit by building housing near existing transit or near corridors for new transit.

Newsom also signed into law Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) legislation to address the student and faculty housing shortage, Senate Bill 886.

SB 886, the Student and Faculty Housing Act, streamlines and accelerates student and faculty housing production across the state and increases the supply of housing so more students and faculty can live on campus. SB 886 gives more students the opportunity to attend California’s public colleges and universities. The legislation exempts from CEQA student and faculty housing projects built on land owned by UC, CSU, or community colleges. CEQA, at times, has been used to stop or delay new student housing from being built.

SB 886 effectively provides UC, CSU, and CCC the same ability to create new student and faculty housing that many cities already have through state housing streamlining laws.

“For far too long, California’s college students have been sleeping in their cars, crashing on friend’s couches, or forced to stay in motels because their schools simply can’t build enough housing for them,” said Senator Wiener. “But today is a new day for students and faculty struggling to find stable housing. Schools will be able to build on-campus housing more quickly and easily. College is a path to the middle class for so many low-income Californians – but college will never be truly accessible if students are worrying about where they’ll sleep, rather than their grades. SB 886 will have a tangible impact for so many.”

California’s lack of student housing drives college students into homelessness. According to a 2021 report by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, 5% of UC students are currently experiencing homelessness. That number rises to 16% when those living in hotels or transitional housing are included. For CSU students, the rate of homelessness during the academic year is 10%. With over 280,000 students currently enrolled in UCs and 485,000 in CSUs, this means that over 60,000 students at four-year universities in California are currently facing homelessness, with even more facing housing insecurity.

The statistics are even more jarring for our community college system. In a 2019 survey of 40,000 California community college students, 19% of students had been homeless in the last year while 60% had experienced housing insecurity. With 1.8 million Californians currently attending community college, this means over 1 million community college students in this state alone are unable to find an adequate and affordable place to live while pursuing a degree.

The lack of student housing also impacts California’s urgent need to expand access to public higher education for California youth. The UC system, for example, received record amounts of applications in 2021 and has expanded enrollment as demand has increased. The growth in admissions, combined with decades of limited housing development, has left campuses without the necessary shelter for their students or staff. Schools have revoked housing guarantees, and housing waitlists continue to grow. In the fall of 2021 alone, 13 CSU campuses reported having 8,700 students on waitlists for housing, while 8 UC campuses reported 7,500 students – a combined total of over 16,000 students unable to gain access to housing through the university they attend.

Although half of CSUs and all UCs have added housing capacity since 2015, the rate at which these projects are ready to be inhabited has not matched the rise in admissions. One issue facing potential housing projects for students and faculty is the prevalence of CEQA appeals and lawsuits.

CEQA requires state and local agencies to evaluate and disclose the significant environmental impacts of projects they approve and to avoid or mitigate those impacts if possible. CEQA is a critically important law that protects the environment from projects such as refineries that pollute natural resources and jeopardize health, especially for historically marginalized and underserved populations.

However, the CEQA process is subject to appeals and lawsuits that can increase project costs and create delays for reasons completely unrelated to the environment. It’s not unusual for it to take three to four years and millions of dollars to resolve a single lawsuit, while pre-lawsuit appeals regularly take six months to resolve. The delays and excessive costs associated with CEQA can slow down projects, or even prevent proposals from moving forward.

Using CEQA to delay or halt student and faculty housing projects has greatly impacted California campuses, increasing the cost of living in and around campuses, pushing thousands of students and staff into housing insecurity or homelessness. Moreover, increasing on-campus student and faculty housing is inherently environmentally beneficial, as students and faculty can walk to work or school, rather than driving long distances due to the extreme cost of housing.

To qualify for this exemption, projects must be on a UC, CSU, or CCC campus, utilize prevailing wages and a skilled and trained workforce, not utilize land demarcated as farmland, wetlands, or a very high fire hazard severity zone, and not result in the demolition of rent-controlled or affordable housing. Additionally, projects must be consistent with Long Range Development Plans or Master Plans that have been certified on or after January 1, 2018, have a transportation demand management program, and mitigate all construction impacts. Projects cannot result in any net additional emissions of greenhouse gasses.

To qualify for this exemption, each building within a development be LEED Platinum certified, have no more than 33% of the square footage be used for dining, academic or student support spaces, and have a maximum of 2,000 units or 4,000 beds. Projects must be located within half a mile of a major transit stop, half a mile of the campus boundary, or have 15% lower per capita VMT. Lead agencies must hold at least one hearing – with public notice – for a project.

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California

Newsom signs laws, further fortifies California abortion protections

“California is a Reproductive Freedom state and all are welcome to seek the care they want or need here in California”

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First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom with Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – As other states throughout the country outlaw abortion and criminalize patients and doctors, California continues to lead the nation’s fight for reproductive health care access and privacy. 

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed additional bills into law to further protect people from legal retaliation and prohibit law enforcement and corporations from cooperating with out-of-state entities regarding lawful abortions in California, while also expanding access to contraception and abortion providers in California.

“An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services. We’re doing everything we can to protect people from any retaliation for accessing abortion care while also making it more affordable to get contraceptives,” said Governor Newsom. “Our Legislature has been on the frontlines of this fight, and no other legislative body in the country is doing more to protect these fundamental rights – I’m proud to stand with them again and sign these critical bills into law.”

 The package signed today includes:

  • PROTECTIONS FROM CRIMINAL & CIVIL LIABILITIES: AB 2223 by Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) helps to ensure that pregnancy loss is not criminalized, prohibiting a person from being criminally or civilly liable for miscarriage, stillbirth, abortion, or perinatal death due to causes that occurred in utero.  
  • KEEPS MEDICAL RECORDS PRIVATE: AB 2091 by Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) prohibits a health care provider from releasing medical information on an individual seeking abortion care in response to a subpoena or request from out-of-state.
  • PROHIBITS COOPERATION WITH OUT-OF-STATE ENTITIES: AB 1242 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) prohibits law enforcement and California corporations from cooperating with out-of-state entities regarding a lawful abortion in California. It also prohibits law enforcement from knowingly arresting a person for aiding in a lawful abortion in California.
  • EXPANDS BIRTH CONTROL ACCESS: SB 523 by Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) expands birth control access – regardless of gender or insurance coverage status – by requiring health plans to cover certain over-the-counter birth control without cost sharing. It also prohibits employment-related discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.
  • MORE HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS: SB 1375 by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) expands training options for Nurse Practitioners and Certified Nurse-Midwives for purposes of performing abortion care by aspiration techniques.

“During this unprecedented time, I’m grateful to the Governor and the California Legislature for taking critical measures to protect a woman’s right to choose and to enshrine the right to reproductive freedom into California’s constitution,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “No person should be denied access to contraceptive services and abortion care because of a lack of resources or a fear of retribution. And we will not accept the status quo of rendering women powerless to determine their own destiny. In California, we trust women, we believe in women, and we see their value beyond their reproductive capabilities.” 

“My colleagues and I saw the imminent danger headed for national abortion access more than a year ago and have spent every day since working to not only protect reproductive rights, but expand them. Our package of bills ensures that all Californians, and anyone who needs to come here, will receive the essential health care they need and the respect they deserve. Creating laws is like a marathon and today, we are only able to cross the finish line because of months of hard work, and leadership from the Legislative Women’s Caucus and our partners on the California Future of Abortion Council.” – Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins.

In addition to the bills detailed above, the Governor also signed into law: 

  • AB 657 by Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove): Expedites licensure for health care practitioners that come to California to provide abortion care services.
  • AB 2626 by Assemblymember Lisa Calderon (D-Whittier): Prohibits specified licensing boards from suspending or revoking a license solely for performing an abortion in accordance with the licensee’s practice act.
  • AB 2205 by Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo (D-Los Angeles): Requires Covered California plans to report annually the total amounts of funds collected in special accounts for abortion care which was established under the ACA to hold premium payment of $1 per member per month and from which claims for abortion care must be paid.
  • SB 1142 by Senator Anna Caballero (D-Merced) and Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley): Requires the establishment of an abortion care services website and an evaluation of the Abortion Practical Support Fund.
  • SB 1245 by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles): Establishes a reproductive health pilot project in LA County to support innovative approaches and collaborations to safeguard abortion access.
  • AB 1918 by Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach): Creates the CA Reproductive Health Scholarship Corps to recruit, train and retain a diverse workforce of health care professionals who will provide reproductive health services in underserved areas of the state.
  • AB 2134 by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-San Diego): Establishes the CA Reproductive Health Equity Program which will provide grants to providers who provide uncompensated care to patients with low-incomes and those who face other financial barriers.
  • AB 2586 by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens): Establishes the CA Reproductive Justice and Freedom Fund to support CBOs in providing comprehensive reproductive/sexual health education, inclusive of abortion care, to disproportionately impacted communities. 

The Governor previously signed SB 245 to eliminate cost-sharing for abortion services and AB 1666, which seeks to protect those in California from civil liability for providing, aiding, or receiving abortion care in the state. 

“As extreme politicians across the country pursue personal political agendas seeking to restrict and criminalize people seeking and providing abortion services – essential health care that should be available to people where they live and when they want or need it – California is showing what is possible when leaders listen to experts, facts, science and from the people who are directly impacted,” said Jodi Hicks, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “Patients and providers across California and the country are living in a state of fear and confusion as we collectively try to navigate this new post-Roe reality. Today’s bold and comprehensive actions provide reassurance to all that California is a Reproductive Freedom state and all are welcome to seek the care they want or need here in California.”

“California continues to take historic steps towards its promise to be a Reproductive Freedom state – not just protecting access to abortion care in the face of Roe v. Wade being overturned, but moving forward centering equity and expanding access to help people, regardless of where they call home, get the essential care they want or need here in California. This bill package, in addition to the $200+ million in new funding, will go a long way in helping people seeking care in California and the community organizations and providers already on the ground doing the work across the state. By signing this bill package, Governor Newsom is putting an exclamation mark on a year-long effort by California reproductive health, rights, and justice leaders and policymakers to prepare and respond to the U.S Supreme Court overturning 50 years of precedent and eliminating the federally protected right to abortion.” – Steering Committee of the California Future of Abortion Council.

“California is committed to upholding and expanding protections that ensure reproductive health care is a right and not a privilege. The legislative package signed into law today strengthens the budget actions taken by the Governor earlier this summer to protect and expand reproductive care in California, while also breaking down barriers that have caused historic inequities in access and the health outcomes of our most vulnerable communities,” said Secretary of the California Health & Human Services Agency, Dr. Mark Ghaly. “We stand ready to deliver on this vision of a Healthy California for All, which protects the health and wellbeing of anyone seeking critical reproductive services in California.”

These actions build upon California’s nation-leading actions to cut costs, expand access and strengthen protections for abortion care:

  • Allocated more than $200 million to help pay for travel costs, cover uninsured care, support health care facilities and providers, bolster security and more.
  • Signed legislation to help protect patients and providers in California from civil liability for providing, aiding or receiving abortion care in the state.
  • Launched a new Multi-State Commitment to defend access to reproductive health care and protect patients and providers.
  • Signed an executive order preventing medical records, patient data and other information from being shared by state agencies in response to inquiries or investigations brought by other states or individuals within those states looking to restrict abortion access, and declining to extradite any person in California sought by another state for lawful abortion services provided in California.
  • Eliminating copays for abortion care services and signed into law a legislative package to further strengthen access and protect patients and providers.
  • In November, California voters will have an opportunity to amend the state’s constitution to enshrine the right to an abortion following the introduction of a constitutional amendment by state leaders.
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California advances pay equity and supporting women

Additional measures signed by the governor expand supports for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

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Governor Newsom signs legislation alongside First Partner Siebel Newsom, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis & Women’s Caucus members (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom today met with leaders from the Legislative Women’s Caucus to highlight a package of priority legislation signed by the Governor to strengthen California’s commitment to advancing gender equity and protecting the rights of women.

The measures signed by the Governor include SB 1162 by Senator Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara), which requires employers to make salary ranges for positions available to applicants and employees and expands pay data reporting requirements to better identify gender and race-based pay disparities.

“California has the strongest equal pay laws in the nation, but we’re not letting up on our work to ensure all women in our state are paid their due and treated equally in all spheres of life,” said Governor Newsom. “These measures bring new transparency to tackle pay gaps, end discriminatory pricing of products based on gender and expand supports for survivors of abuse and assault. I thank the Legislative Women’s Caucus for their leadership and partnership in building a more equitable California for all.”

“To achieve a California for ALL WOMEN, we must dismantle the patriarchal systems that have barred women from access to equal pay, secure housing, fair prices on goods, and support services and privacy after a sexual assault,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “These bills will move us in the right direction, and I am grateful to the California Legislative Women’s Caucus and Governor Newsom for their continued partnership in working to move the needle forward to true gender equality in California.”

“Over the last two years, the Legislative Women’s Caucus has been working tirelessly to help reverse the devastating impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on women, especially women of color. The reality is that these issues existed long before the pandemic, but the pandemic further exacerbated and highlighted the work we need to do to lift up all women, especially low-income women of color, and has given us a greater sense of urgency,” said Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “Governor Newsom’s actions to sign a diverse package of bills that are leading with a lens on equity will make a positive difference for women, children, and families across the state and ensures we are rebuilding a system that better values women and everything they bring to the table.”

Advancing pay equity and combating gender-based price discrimination

SB 1162 requires employers to make pay scale information available to employees and included in job postings. Building on a measure the Governor signed in 2020 to identify patterns of wage disparities through mandated statewide pay data reporting, SB 1162 expands state pay data reporting requirements, which include employee sex, race and ethnicity information, to cover contracted employees.

Governor Newsom also signed AB 1287 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) which eliminates the discriminatory “pink tax” by prohibiting different prices for goods based purely on what gender they are marketed to. AB 1287 allows for price differences when there is a significant difference in the cost or time to produce a particular good.

Supporting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault

In addition, Governor Newsom signed AB 1467 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside), which supports survivors by requiring sexual assault and domestic violence counselors at public colleges to be independent from the Title IX office and prohibits these counselors from releasing the identity of a victim without permission.

AB 2185 by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) provides domestic violence victims access to free medical evidentiary exams by Local Sexual Assault Response Teams or other qualified medical evidentiary examiners.

SB 1017 by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) increases eviction protections for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other serious crimes.

A full list of bills the Governor announced signing can be found below:

  • AB 1287 by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda) – Price discrimination: gender.
  • AB 1467 by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) – Student safety: sexual assault and domestic violence procedures and protocols: sexual assault and domestic violence counselors.
  • AB 2185 by Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) – Forensic examinations: domestic violence.
  • SB 1017 by Senator Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) – Leases: termination of tenancy: abuse or violence.
  • SB 1162 by Senator Monique Limόn (D-Santa Barbara) – Employment: Salaries and Wages.

The Governor earlier this month signed AB 32a Women’s Caucus priority measure that expands health care access by permitting health care providers to establish new Medi-Cal patients via telephone call and other audio-only methods.

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