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California Politics

Wiener introduces legislation to protect LGBTQ+ foster youth

SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs



Sen. Scott Wiener with 5th graders from San Diego County who came to Sacramento to advocate for SB 918, bill to direct more resources to help homeless youth in 2021 (Photo Credit: Wiener/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 407, legislation to improve foster care conditions for LGBTQ youth. Nearly one third of foster youth identify as LGBTQ.

SB 407 ensures LGBTQ foster youth are raised in supportive environments by creating standard documentation for their needs, adding more follow-up from the Department of Social Services, and requiring LGBTQ youth’s needs be specifically considered in at-home assessments – including clarifying that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason to deny a family the right to host a foster youth. 

“Every child deserves to be one hundred percent supported at home,” said Wiener. “SB 407 ensures that foster youth receive this essential support by specifically requiring LGBTQ acceptance be considered in the resource family approval (RFA) process, creating standard documentation for the assessment of LGBTQ youth needs, and ensuring more frequent follow-up. These youth are at high risk for homelessness, criminal justice involvement, and mental health issues, and we must do everything in our power to ensure they have a safe home in the state of California.”

According to the California Child Welfare Indicators Project, there are 53,371 youth in foster care in California as of October 1, 2022. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are overrepresented in foster care, with at least three studies estimating about 30 percent of youth in foster care identify as LGBTQ.

The degree of support for their identity an LGBTQ child receives at home is a strong predictor of their mental health outcomes. According to the Trevor Project, teens who perceived parental support regarding gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive.

Data collected since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic show LGBTQ youth are facing a crisis of mental health. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ+ youth—and 52 percent of trans youth—said they seriously considered suicide in 2021. This crisis may be related to the recent surge of anti-LGBTQ hatred in many states in recent years, which most LGBTQ youth are exposed to online. This year alone, more than 420 bills have been introduced in states across the country.

In 2019, California passed AB 175 (Gipson), which expanded the foster youth bill of rights to include rights to be referred to by the youth’s preferred name and pronoun and maintain privacy of the child’s sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Under existing law, foster youth also have the right to have caregivers and child welfare personnel that have received instruction on cultural competency and best practices for providing care for LGBTQ+ youth in out-of-home care. 

However, while the foster youth bill of rights is strong, it has not translated into the RFA process or into considerations made when approving caregivers. LGBTQ foster youth are still being placed in homes with families that discriminate against or are hostile toward them based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

SB 407 will strengthen the resource family approval (RFA) process for LGBTQ foster youth by:

  • Requiring explicit consideration of LGBTQ youth in home and environmental assessments; 
  • Creating standard documentation by the Department of Social Services for these assessments to include LGBTQ youth needs; 
  • Reviewing county-approved resource families to evaluate if they are meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth and investigating related incidents as needed;
  • Ensuring that resource families have the necessary skills, knowledge, and abilities to support LGBTQ youth; and 
  • Clarifying existing law that conduct that poses risk to the health and safety of LGBTQ youth is a valid reason for denial of a resource family. 

SB 407 is sponsored by Equality California and the California Alliance of Child and Family Services.

“According to the Trevor Project, teens who have parental support regarding their gender identity were 93% less likely to attempt suicide than youth who did not perceive parents as supportive. Supportive and affirming homes for LGBTQ+ foster youth saves lives. The CA Alliance is excited to partner with Senator Wiener on SB 407 to ensure that all LGBTQ+ foster youth have affirming families and feel safe, supported, and cared for.” –Christine Stoner-Mertz, CEO of the California Alliance of Child and Family Services

“LGBTQ+ foster youth experience violence and other stressors unique to the LGBTQ+ community, including homophobia or transphobia,” said Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. “SB 407 protects LGBTQ+ foster youth from being placed in non-affirming homes by creating standard guidelines and criteria that carefully screens potential families. LGBTQ+ foster youth need a healthy environment that supports and embraces them as they explore their identity.”


California Politics

Assemblymember Lee introduces bill to tackle LBGTQ+ inequalities

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community



Calif. Attorney General Rob Bonta with Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-24) at a Santa Clara County Democratic Party event in San Jose last Fall. (Photo Credit: Assemblymember Alex Lee/Facebook)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. —Today, Assemblymember Alex Lee introduced AB 3031 to address the inequities and barriers faced by LGBTQ+ community. AB 3031 will create the LGBTQ+ Commission with the goal of improving the health, safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ community members.

The LGBTQ+ Commission will monitor state legislation, and assess programs and policies affecting the LGBTQ+ community. 

“It’s critical that the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ community members are recognized by our government,” said Assemblymember Lee. “The Commission will play an important role in informing policy and programs for the LGBTQ+ community. Creating the LGBTQ+ Commission is another important step forward to ensure that everyone can live authentically and inclusively in our community.” 

California is one of the most diverse states in the country. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the Golden State has the largest share of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, compared to any other highly populated state. About 2.7 million or roughly 9% of Californian adults identify as lesbian, gay, bixsexual or transgender. 

But there continue to be attempts at silencing the LGBTQ+ community in California and across the U.S. Between 2021 to 2022, there were over 391 reported hate crime events motivated by sexual orientation bias in California, an increase of 29% from the previous year. 

Meanwhile, local school boards are also moving to reverse the gains made by the LGBTQ+ community, whether it be banning displays of the pride flag or requiring parental notifications of students’ gender identities. In addition, more than 200 pieces of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in over 40 state legislatures were introduced in 2022, according to the State of Pride Report by the California Department of Justice. 

“We have made strides in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and those who desire to put us back in the closet want us to feel ashamed,” said Lee. “But we are never going back. As a member of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus, I will continue to advocate and fight for the voices of our LGBTQ+ community members to be heard.” 

Under AB 3031, appointments to California’s LGBTQ+ Commission will be considered among individuals who representthe diversity of California’s LGBTQ+ community. The LGBTQ+ Commission will be composed of nine members, as follows: 

·         5 members appointed by the Governor. 

·         2 members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly. 

·         2 members appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules. 

“I thank my colleague Assemblymember Alex Lee for introducing this important legislation to establish the California LGBTQ+ Commission, which will empower our LGBTQ+ community with independent representation to advise the Legislature and Governor on policy matters and provide recommendations for future actions we can take to identify and reduce systemic inequalities and barriers,” said Assemblymember Evan Low, joint-author of AB 3031 and a member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus

“Thanks to Assemblymembers Alex Lee and Evan Low for authoring legislation that creates a state-level Commission on LGBTQ+ Affairs,” said BAYMEC President Drew Lloyd. “Having a commission that addresses disparities facing California’s queer community and works to elevate our community’s unique experiences, voices, and concerns, is invaluable. BAYMEC enthusiastically endorses the creation of this Commission and looks forward to working with all stakeholders and our community to create a safe and unique space that leads to a better California for All.” 

“California has come a long way in the fight for full, lived equality for LGBTQ+ people, but our state is not immune to the wave of anti-LGBTQ+ hate, violence and right-wing extremism sweeping the country,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “California’s commitment to the health, safety and dignity of LGBTQ+ people is needed now more than ever. This commission will be an important demonstration of that commitment and will help ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable members of our community are heard at the highest levels of government.”

Assemblymember Alex Lee (D) represents the 24th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and the community of Sunol.

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California Politics

LGBTQ+ advocates & health care providers release new report

Report details policy recommendations to improve access to comprehensive health care & education for LGBTQ+ communities



Capitol Dome in Sacramento lit up for Pride Month. (Los Angeles Blade file photo)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A coalition of more than two dozen LGBTQ+ advocate organizations and health care providers are releasing a new report aimed at addressing the challenges and discrimination that transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (“TGI”) individuals face when seeking and receiving health care and health education.

The group, which convened under the name “Project RAINBOW,” has put forth almost a dozen policy recommendations which they hope the California legislature will consider introducing to further protect LGBTQ+ people in the state and increase access to care.

With the disturbing rise of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and policies throughout the country, the coalition is urging California to lead the way to ensure that young people are safe, supported, and have access to the resources and health care that they need. The groups want California policymakers to act upon the recommendations and take meaningful action to implement them to improve equitable access to health care services for TGI people.

LGBTQ+ individuals, especially TGI youth, are confronting an alarming rise in discrimination and violence, fueled by misinformation and political attacks. States across the country enacted 25 anti-LGBTQ+ bills in 2022, and by 2023, nearly 600 bills across 49 states were introduced to restrict the rights of transgender people. These attacks mirror previous assaults on reproductive freedom from the same extremists who limited access to abortion before turning their focus to gender-affirming care.

Project RAINBOW – which stands for Resources Advocacy and Inclusive Network for Better Outcomes in LGBTQ+ Wellness – came together in August 2023 to improve access to comprehensive health care and health education in settings that promote respect and validation, as well as address barriers to obtaining health care services – including gender-affirming care – in safe and inclusive settings.

The policy recommendations in this report are the result of that process and are designed to promote access to health education, expand the availability of inclusive care and medically accurate resources, and create welcoming and supportive environments for California’s diverse LGBTQ+ communities.

The report details how California should further invest in strong support services for LGBTQ+ people, particularly TGI people and their families, and ensure that the health care workforce is trained to provide inclusive care with dignity. California must also strengthen safeguards for LGBTQ+ communities and remain a safe haven from states that are creating hostile environments for TGI people.

The coalition stresses that in this dangerous moment, California must continue to lead the nation with legislation that safeguards LGBTQ+ civil rights and does everything possible to protect TGI communities from discrimination and violence. 

Statements from Project RAINBOW participants:

“Across the county and even here in California, right-wing extremists are attempting to ban access to life-saving gender-affirming medical care and roll back protections for TGI youth. Project RAINBOW was formed in direct response to these attacks and will help to ensure that California remains a safe haven for the TGI community. We are grateful to the community advocates and medical providers that offered their time and expertise to this effort, and we hope California lawmakers will now work to enact the policy recommendations published on this report.”
– Tony Hoang, Executive Director, Equality California

“As a medical provider of gender-affirming care, Planned Parenthood believes in protecting everyone’s fundamental right to control their own bodies and make their own personal decisions about their unique circumstances. This includes making sure all TGI people, especially youth, have access to comprehensive, whole-person health-related education and health care in a dignified and affirming environment, which these recommendations will help us work towards. We look forward to working in continued partnership with the participants and Legislature to bring meaningful change to California.”
– Jodi Hicks, CEO/President, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California

“Comprehensive gender-affirming care (GAC) for the transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (TGI) community needs to be made a top priority in every facet of healthcare throughout California and the rest of the nation.  As a society, we cannot continue to exclude a subset of the community based on a moral compass and blatant bias.  We have an obligation to ensure we are taking care of our TGI community and investing in the betterment of their lives.  The movement to achieve health equity for all will not stop until the TGI community has an equitable seat at the table.”
– TransLatin@ Coalition

“The Sacramento LGBT Community Center works to create a region where all LGBTQ+ people thrive and to make this mission a reality, the TGI community must have access to affirming healthcare. The Center was thrilled to work alongside advocates and medical providers throughout California to develop statewide policy recommendations to create more equitable healthcare services. Project Rainbow’s policy recommendations seek to improve research and information sharing, invest in community-based organizations, educate medical providers, and enshrine the right to gender-affirming care in California. The Center looks forward to supporting these recommendations and is eager to see these ideas become a reality.”
– Sacramento LGBT Community Center

“Project RAINBOW’s report underscores the urgent need for California to prioritize the rights and well-being of its LGBTQ+ communities, particularly transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex individuals (TGI). In the face of growing anti-LGBTQ+ measures nationwide, it’s imperative that California takes decisive action to ensure equitable access to comprehensive healthcare and education. We call on policymakers to heed these recommendations and foster inclusive environments that affirm and support the diverse needs of TGI people.”
– Trans Family Support Services

“Aligning with our commitment to equitable and inclusive healthcare, the California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP) stands firmly behind the vital initiatives of Project RAINBOW. Upholding the principles of dignity, respect, and accessibility, we affirm that access to safe and affirming healthcare environments is imperative for all, especially our transgender, gender-diverse, and intersex (TGI) communities. Family physicians, with their specialized training in preventive and primary care for people from birth to end-of-life, provide continuity of care throughout someone’s life, including intergenerational care, regardless of immigration status, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Every individual deserves compassionate care within an environment that fosters respect and validation. Guided by collaboration and evidence-based practices, we advocate for comprehensive health education, inclusive resources, and barrier-free access to gender-affirming care. Let us continue to champion the rights and welfare of California’s diverse LGBTQ+ communities, ensuring their voices are heard and their health needs met with empathy and understanding.”
– California Academy of Family Physicians (CAFP)

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California Politics

“Everyone deserves to love & be loved,” Newsom 20 years later

During that time I walked out of my office and a little girl came up and said, “Thank you for giving me two mommies”



California Governor Gavin Newsom joins Jonathan Capehart to talk about his 2004 decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses and the continuing fight for equality today. (Screenshot/YouTube MSNBC)

SACRAMENTO – History changed on February 12, 2004, when the newly elected mayor of the City and County of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, did something extraordinary: He defied the status quo by ordering the San Francisco county clerk to begin accepting same-sex marriage license applications.

‘Journey for equality,’ Newsom reflects on landmark move for marriage equality as he joined joins MSNBC journalist Jonathan Capehart to talk about his 2004 decision to issue same-sex marriage licenses and the continuing fight for equality today.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) Monday Newsom wrote:

20 years ago today we began marrying same sex couples in San Francisco. During that time, I walked out of my office and a little girl came up and said, “Thank you for giving me two mommies.” I’ll never forget that moment. It’s a reminder of what’s at stake. It’s a reminder of the anger and hate that the

@GOP are spreading as they work to roll back decades of progress. We can’t let them.

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California Politics

Toni Atkins: Extending a legacy of public service & advocacy

As Atkins continues her advocacy work, she remains committed to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities & championing policies



San Diego's openly LGBTQ+ Democratic elected officials; California State Assemblymember Chris Ward, State Senator Toni G. Atkins, and Mayor Todd Gloria at a August 2023 event in San Diego's Balboa Park. (Photo Credit: Office of Assemblymember Chris Ward)

SAN DIEGO – California State Senator Toni G. Atkins, an openly lesbian Democrat from San Diego, has announced her candidacy for governor, aiming to extend her legacy of public service and advocacy for marginalized communities to the highest office in the state.

Only a few days after handing the gavel to Sen. Mike McGuire, Atkins took time out of her busy schedule to talk to The Blade about her love and vision for California. 

From Humble Beginnings to the California Dream

Atkins, born and raised in rural southwestern Virginia to parents working strenuously to make ends meet, embarked on a journey marked by resilience and a commitment to uplift others. Graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Emory & Henry College in Virginia, Atkins made her way to California in 1985, answering the call to support her twin sister and her newborn nephew while her sister served in the U.S. Navy.

“A lot of what I do stems from how I grew up in the values that shape me,” Atkins said. The Senator Pro Temp, who identifies as a “team player,” attributes much of her values as a politician to her modest origins. 

“I grew up thinking that society wasn’t about me. In fact, everything told me that I didn’t matter, from being poor to being a lesbian. But I found in college who told me that I could work with other people and had a vision for the world that I wanted to live in. I could empower myself; I didn’t have to be a victim. If I learned to organize, I could actually get things done.”

Atkins shared that her impoverished parents died young, in their late fifties and early sixties, due to a lack of access to healthcare and other vital resources. Having witnessed the system failing her own family has fueled her to provide support for underserved communities and the leaders of the future in California. 

“I tell women all the time that with the right support, you can be this. You don’t have to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, but you do have to work hard and have support to do this.”

Atkins expressed profound gratitude and love for her adopted home state, emphasizing her intention to pay her success as a politician forward. 

“The California dream that I talk about, other people talk about. I’ve actually lived it. I followed my heart. I followed my passion. I did the work. I pinch myself most days that I have had the ability to go from that to where I am today.”

Atkins’ gratitude to California is also a main driving force behind her commitment to improving the state.

“If California can be my adopted home and give all of this to me, then I have a responsibility to pay it forward and to be mindful of the roll that I have and the role model that I can be for those like me.” 

Political Ascent

California State Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins.
(Photo Credit: Equality California)

Atkins’ entry into public service began with a dedication to providing essential healthcare services, particularly for women, as the Director of Clinic Services at the WomanCare Clinic formerly on 6th Avenue in San Diego’s gayborhood of Hillcrest. Atkins then transitioned into political roles, serving as an aide to San Diego City Councilmember Christine Kehoe before being elected to the city council herself in 2000.

She served an unexpected turn as interim mayor of San Diego in 2005 after Dick Murphy resigned amid a probe of the city’s debt-ridden pension fund.  Murphy had previously narrowly won re-election and was also named by Time magazine as one of the three worst mayors of a major U.S. city.

Atkins’s legislative journey continued as she was elected to the state Assembly in 2010 and subsequently chosen by her colleagues to be the Speaker of the Assembly in 2014, a historic achievement as the first San Diegan and the first openly lesbian politician to hold the position. Notable accomplishments during her time in the Assembly include the passage of a $7.5-billion water bond and the establishment of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

In March 2018, she was sworn in as Senate President pro Tempore, becoming the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to lead the Legislature’s upper house. Atkins is the first person in 150 years, and the third person in California history, to lead both houses of the Legislature.

In 2016, Atkins transitioned to the state Senate, where she has persistently advocated for affordable housing, environmental conservation, healthcare access, and the rights of marginalized communities. Her colleagues recognized her leadership by selecting her as the Senate President pro Tempore, making her the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to lead the Legislature’s upper house. Atkins is also a trailblazer in California’s legislative history, being the first person in 150 years and the third person overall to lead both houses of the Legislature.

Throughout her legislative career, Atkins has championed numerous landmark initiatives, including the creation of a permanent source of funding for affordable housing with SB 2 and the facilitation of streamlined processes for homeownership with SB 9. Additionally, she has been at the forefront of protecting reproductive rights and expanding access to healthcare, exemplified by her authorship of critical legislation such as SB 1375 and SCA 10.

Atkins on the Opposition

Democratic state Senator Toni Atkins, the outgoing president pro tempore of the state Senate, announced that she is running in the race to replace Governor Gavin Newsom who is term limited.
(Screenshot/YouTube CBS 8 San Diego)

Atkins emphasized her commitment to avoiding the pitfall of unfairly criticizing her opponents. Instead, she expressed appreciation for the progressive strides made by incumbent Governor Gavin Newsom and former Governor Jerry Brown. She pledged to further advance the work initiated by these governors.

“I got to get married because of Newsom,” said Atkins. “so I think there is a lot to be valued about his approach.”  

“If it weren’t for Jerry Brown,” Atkins continues, “we wouldn’t be in the fiscal position that we are in today to whether this storm. Before him, we had a real deficit and no safety net money. We had no reserves. Now numbers have changed, and we’re about a $38 million deficit, but there are pools in place to weather the storm thanks to him.”

Atkins emphasized that her perspective as a lesbian from a working-class family distinguishes her from her opponents, offering a unique viewpoint. “We are different people; we have different styles,” Atkins said. “I’m going to do things differently just by nature of who I am. But I do commend a lot of things they have done.” 

“For me, it’s about building on their track record of success. I believe in teamwork. I believe in doing it together.”

Looking ahead to the campaign trail, Atkins expressed her determination to tackle the state’s pressing issues head-on. “I think it’s about trying to tackle the issues that California is facing, and let’s be clear, there are a lot of issues. I’m ready to hit the ground running.”

LGBTQ+ Issues

Toni Atkins, a prominent advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and a key figure in California politics, recently shared insights into her journey as an LGBTQ+ individual and her commitment to advancing equality in the state.

Atkins, known for her longstanding support for queer rights and a proven track record in championing LGBTQ+ causes, spoke candidly about her personal experiences. “I came out when I was 17 in Southwest Virginia, and in a pretty conservative area,” she revealed. “Being in California has been incredible. We are the wave of the future.”

Reflecting on her 38 years in California, Atkins emphasized the state’s progressive stance and the strides made in promoting equality, particularly for the transgender community and gender non-conforming youth. She highlighted her efforts in advancing LGBTQ+ rights, including her pivotal role in passing the Gender Recognition Act and securing legal recognition for individuals to live authentically.

Out elected Democratic California officials; Assemblymember Evan Low, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins & California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara.
(Photo Credit: LGBTQ+ Victory Institute

However, Atkins also expressed concern about the ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, citing a nationwide backlash against LGBTQ+ rights. “The backlash that is against us all across the country is really heart-wrenching for me to see,” she remarked.

Drawing from her own experiences of overcoming adversity, Atkins underscored the importance of resilience and solidarity in the fight for equality. “We have been in this fight, the gay community, the women’s community, the diverse communities that I have the benefit of representing,” she stated. “We are strong and we will live through this. We will fight back.”

As Atkins continues her advocacy work, she remains committed to amplifying the voices of marginalized communities and championing policies that promote inclusivity and social justice. With her unwavering dedication and leadership, Atkins embodies the spirit of resilience and progress in California’s ongoing pursuit of equality for all.

“I’m glad to be in California where we can actually lead the country in passing some of the most progressive legislation as well as budget actions to support the very kind of things we need in healthcare and gender-affirming care,” Atkins said. 

Senator Atkins resides in San Diego’s South Park community with her spouse, Jennifer, and their dogs, Joey and Mia. As she embarks on her gubernatorial campaign, she carries with her the values instilled by her upbringing and a steadfast commitment to serving the people of California.

Statement of support by EQCA

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins with Tony Hoang, Executive Director of Equality California. (Photo Credit: Equality California)

Executive Director Tony Hoang of Equality California issued the following statement in support of Atkins: 

“Since her earliest days in California politics, we have been honored to partner with Senator Toni Atkins on countless efforts to improve the lives of LGBTQ+ Californians. From her start as a San Diego Councilmember to California Senate President Pro Tempore, her distinguished career has been spent fighting for California’s underserved and underrepresented communities.

Senator Atkins has broken down many doors for LGBTQ+ people — she was the first out lesbian Mayor of San Diego, the first out lesbian to serve as Speaker of the Assembly, and the first out LGBTQ+ person to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore. When she was sworn in as Pro Tem in March 2018, she became the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ+ person to lead the Legislature’s upper house. Senator Atkins is the first person in 150 years, and only the third person in California history, to lead both houses of the Legislature. Throughout her time in the legislature, she has authored several pieces of legislation that directly impact LGBTQ+ Californians, including:

• AB 887, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act, which added the categories of “gender identity” and “gender expression” to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. 

• AB 1577, the Respect After Death Act, ensuring death certificates for transgender Californians accurately reflect their authentic, lived identity.

• SB 179, The Gender Recognition Act, making California only the second state in the nation at the time to offer ‘X’ gender markers on drivers licenses and state IDs. 

• SCA 10/Proposition 1, Constitutional Right to Reproductive Freedom, creating a state constitutional amendment to protect reproductive freedoms.


We are beyond grateful to Senator Atkins for partnering with Equality California throughout her years in the legislature in service of our shared vision to create a world that is just and fully equal for all LGBTQ+ people. We congratulate her on a landmark career in the legislature and we look forward to continuing our strong relationship with her in the years ahead. 

We are thrilled to congratulate new Senate Pro Tem Mike McGuire, who has a lifetime 100% score from Equality California during his time in the legislature. Equality California looks forward to working with Pro Tem McGuire and his leadership team to continue the historic advancements that we have secured for LGBTQ+ Californians.”  

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California Politics

Newsom signs Senator Scott Wiener’s PrEP access bill into law

PrEP is a preventative drug taken orally or intravenously that reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by more than 99%



File photo of Governor Gavin Newsom signing legislation. (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor)

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senator Scott Wiener’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 339 (SB 339), which improves access to PrEP, a powerful preventative HIV medication, by ensuring pharmacists can furnish PrEP without a prescription.

While there have been massive strides in HIV treatment, California still sees about 4,000 new infections per year, particularly among Black and Brown LGBTQ people. SB 339 builds on and improves Senator Wiener’s SB 159 (2019), the first-in-the-nation law that allowed pharmacists to distribute PrEP without a prescription.

“HIV continues to take a huge toll on public health in California, and SB 339 unlocks a powerful tool to prevent new infections,” said Senator Wiener. “PrEP is nearly 100% effective at preventing HIV transmission, but far too many Californians lack access to it. Allowing people to obtain this powerful anti-HIV tool at their neighborhood pharmacy will greatly expand access and is a big step toward a future free from new HIV cases.”

Senator Wiener was forced to pause the legislation last September after a poison pill amendment was added. The amendment has been removed and the bill restored to its previous form.

“PrEP and PEP prevent thousands of new HIV infections every year, but they are still far too difficult to access,” said Equality California Executive Director Tony Hoang. “SB 339 will make it easier for California pharmacists to provide these important medications without a doctor’s prescription and bring the state one step closer to the ending the HIV epidemic. We were proud to partner with the California Pharmacists Association and San Francisco AIDS Foundation on this important bill, and we are grateful to Senator Wiener for his ongoing leadership on this issue.”

Despite significant public health advancements, HIV remains a major public health challenge in California, with nearly 4,000 new HIV diagnoses each year. Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, Black cisgender women, transgender women, and youth continue to be the populations most impacted by HIV. 

PrEP is a preventative drug taken orally or intravenously that reduces the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by more than 99%, making it more effective than any other measure to prevent HIV, including condoms. Despite its incredible efficacy, fewer than 25 percent of those who would benefit from PrEP are using these medications.

In 2019, Governor Newsom signed the first-in-the-nation Senate Bill 159 (Wiener, Chapter 532, Statutes of 2019) into law. The legislation authorized pharmacies to furnish up to a 60-day supply of PrEP without a prescription. It also banned health plans from imposing step therapy and prior authorization on PrEP.

However, few pharmacies have successfully used the law to furnish PrEP in California. In surveys, providers cited the fact that health plans do not cover the cost of pharmacists’ labor in preparing PrEP as a major obstacle, and that the 60-day window is too short to ensure referral to a primary-care physician.

Other states have successfully implemented pharmacy-provided PrEP programs modeled on SB 159 but without its limitations.  Colorado, Nevada, and Utah opted not to limit the amount of HIV-preventative medication a pharmacist can provide. In Colorado, plans must reimburse a pharmacist employed by an in-network pharmacy for prescribing and dispensing PrEP and PEP to a covered person, and to provide an adequate consultative fee to those pharmacists. In Nevada, both public and private plans must include coverage for PrEP and PEP and reimburse for laboratory testing, prescribing, dispensing, and administering these medications by a pharmacist at a rate equal to that of a physician. 

SB 339 takes lessons from other states to address the unforeseen obstacles of California’s first-in-the-nation effort of SB 159, opening pathways to the increased uptake envisioned when the bill was originally passed. SB 339 requires health plans to cover up to a 90-day supply of PrEP prescribed by a pharmacist, and an ongoing supply if the patient is ensured follow-up care and testing consistent with CDC guidelines. It also requires health plans to cover costs associated with pharmacist services when furnishing PrEP, including, but not limited to, testing. These measures will remove the most significant reported barriers to making PrEP available without a prescription. 

“On behalf of the members of the California Pharmacists Association, I want to thank Senator Wiener and our co-sponsors for their tireless efforts to remove barriers to pharmacists’ ability to independently initiate and provide PEP/PrEP, “says Michael Connor, PharmD, MBA, President of the California Pharmacists Association. “Every individual who chooses to receive this life-saving medication from their community pharmacy should be able to do so. I would also like to extend our gratitude to the Governor for signing this important piece of legislation.  Community pharmacies are important access points and his acknowledgment of this is truly appreciated.”

“The San Francisco AIDS Foundation thanks the Governor for signing SB 339,” said Dr. Tyler Termeer, PhD, Executive Director of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “Expanding PrEP access is essential to ending the HIV epidemic in California and achieving our goals of getting to zero new HIV infections. SB 339 represents an important step forward for the state. We are grateful to Senator Wiener for his leadership and persistence on this issue.

SB 339 is sponsored by California Pharmacists Association, Equality California, and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

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California Politics

Out DDA Eric Siddall hopes to replace LA District Attorney Gascón

Siddall says he embodies values of integrity, fairness, & resilience, offering a path forward toward a brighter future for Los Angeles County



Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall speaking at the Galileo Foundation summit on Faith & Philanthropy, held at the Paul VI Audience Hall in the Vatican in October 2022. (Photo Credit: Eric Siddall)

LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall has thrown his hat into the ring in the upcoming election race for Los Angeles County District Attorney, setting the stage for a heated showdown against incumbent George Gascón. 

In a recent exclusive interview with the Los Angeles Blade, Siddall outlined his ambitious agenda, emphasizing a targeted approach to law enforcement, innovative solutions for homelessness, and a dedicated infrastructure for the mentally ill.

Siddall v. Gascón

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón DA participating in the DA race debate 2024.
(Screenshot/YouTube Fox 11)

Gascón, who has faced criticism and recall attempts for his approach to prosecuting crimes in Los Angeles County, is facing 11 challengers in the primary election, including some of his own prosecutors.

Siddall’s entry into the race comes with a bold critique of Gascón’s handling of violent crime in Los Angeles County, as outlined in his recent digital advertisement titled “Turn the Tide.”

In the ad, Siddall openly lambasts Gascón’s perceived failures in combating the city’s rising violence and pledging to implement robust measures to tackle crime and its underlying causes head-on. Siddall’s critique of Gascón reflects a growing dissatisfaction among residents and The Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) regarding public safety under DA Gascón’s leadership.

ADDA, representing over 750 Deputy District Attorneys, has taken legal action against Gascón, accusing him of a “systematic and deliberate failure” to adhere to the California Public Records Act (CPRA) and citing a lack of transparency and failure to provide necessary documents.

The lawsuit, filed last week, spans 88 pages and contends that Gascón has consistently declined to comply with the CPRA, citing improper and non-existent legal justifications.

Siddall, who is the only candidate endorsed by ADDA in the race against Gascón, emphasized the need for change within the District Attorney’s office.

“George Gascón’s lack of transparency and his refusal to comply with laws designed to give public access to the inner workings of government organizations are the antithesis of good government,” he told the Blade.

Siddall added that he will uphold transparency in the office if elected. He pledged to fully comply with the CPRA and provide complete transparency on controversial cases, particularly those involving the declination of officer-involved shootings reviewed by prosecutors.

“George Gascón continues to play fast and loose with rules created to promote good government,” Siddall said. “This latest lawsuit is further proof of his continuous contempt for transparency.”

The lawsuit filed by ADDA against Gascón signals a growing rift within the District Attorney’s office and reflects broader concerns about transparency and accountability in the criminal justice system.

Recent polling data indicates that Siddall’s candidacy presents a substantial challenge to Gascón’s incumbency, with Siddall emerging as a strong contender in a potential head-to-head matchup.

Law enforcement strategy  

Eric Siddall speaking with law enforcement at the Watts Peace March in 2022.
(Photo Credit: Eric Siddall)

Siddall’s plan, if elected, hinges on a three-pronged strategy. First and foremost, he aims to bolster the law enforcement arm of the DA’s office with the Violence Reduction Division. The Violence Reduction Division would focus on gathering intelligence to uncover the primary instigators behind criminal activities within specific areas. Siddall emphasized the importance of targeting key individuals responsible for orchestrating violent crime syndicates. 

“Prison is not meant for everyone,” Siddall stressed. “It is meant for people who are really the drivers of violence.”

He then highlighted the efficacy of arresting select gang leaders and key members, recounting his instrumental role in dismantling the notorious Blythe Street Gang, a criminal organization responsible for a spree of violence that plagued the San Fernando Valley from 2015 to 2018.

Siddall described the gang’s reign of terror, with 10 to 20 murders attributed to their nefarious activities during the three-year period. Determined to stem the tide of violence, Siddall spearheaded a task force aimed at neutralizing the gang’s leadership and most aggressive members, similar to attacking the queen of a hive rather than casting a wide net over the entire gang of 200+ members.

With strategic precision, Siddall and his team executed a series of arrests, honing in on the gang’s hierarchy and top 15 or so enforcers. The result was a significant disruption to the gang’s operations, effectively reducing violent crime rates in the area to nearly zero for years following the arrests. 

Siddall’s success in dismantling the Blythe Street Gang serves as a testament to his belief in the power of focused law enforcement strategies. By identifying and apprehending the key instigators of violence, He and his staff demonstrated that it is possible to disrupt criminal networks without resorting to mass arrests that often lead to disproportionate incarceration rates.

“Levels of violence increase when gang leadership becomes ambitious,” Siddall told The Blade. “But when you take away the muscle, the gang goes into hibernation.”

Addressing Los Angeles County’s Homelessness Crisis

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homeless Outreach program.
(Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

Secondly, Siddall advocates for a more proactive approach to addressing homelessness, criticizing the incumbent DA’s lack of engagement on the issue. 

He also praised the groundbreaking work of Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb, whose creation of a homeless court, as outlined by Assembly Bill 67, has garnered widespread acclaim for its effectiveness in providing comprehensive support to unhoused individuals facing nonviolent charges.

“It’s a less threatening environment,” Siddall pointed out noting: “It brings the justice system to the community.”

Redondo Beach City Attorney Mike Webb. (Photo Credit: Mike Webb)

Sponsored by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi , AB 67, aims to establish a Homeless Courts Pilot Program, offering comprehensive community-based services for chronically homeless individuals entangled with the criminal justice system. The bill is designed to operate until January 1, 2029, with administration overseen by the Judicial Council.

Key provisions include the dismissal of specified charges upon program completion, the provision of housing assistance, and support from a dedicated county representative. Eligible applicants, including cities and counties, must adhere to program requirements and submit detailed plans for grant funding.

Webb’s innovative approach involves setting up a monthly courthouse in a parking lot, surrounded by service providers, to offer immediate assistance to unhoused individuals facing nonviolent charges. Siddall envisions replicating this model county-wide, leveraging Assembly Bill 67 to establish Homeless Courts Pilot Programs in various cities and counties, providing crucial resources and diversion programs to prevent recidivism.

Highlighting the success of the Redondo Beach homeless court, Siddall stressed the importance of offering comprehensive support to individuals caught in the cycle of homelessness and nonviolent crime, ultimately aiming to transition them into stable housing and productive lives.

Siddall speaking with LAPD personnel.
(Photo Credit: Eric Siddall)

Siddall outlined the homeless court model’s key features, emphasizing immediate assistance and wrap-around services. With housing navigators, mental health care providers, addiction specialists, and public defenders on-site, the homeless court offers a holistic approach to addressing the complex needs of unhoused individuals. 

Siddall noted that one of the most significant barriers to stability for unhoused individuals is the lack of identification. The homeless court’s partnership with the California Department of Motor Vehicles streamlines the process, enabling individuals to obtain crucial identification documents expeditiously.

The success of the Redondo Beach homeless court is evident in its outcomes. According to recent data, a noteworthy 79% of homeless court defendants typically attend their court appearances, a rate that is deemed notably high. Furthermore, an impressive 57% of these defendants have been successfully relocated to temporary or permanent housing, indicating a substantial achievement in meeting the housing requirements of the unhoused populace.

Moreover, in Redondo Beach, the count of unhoused individuals witnessed a decline from 176 in 2020 to 99 in 2022, hinting at a plausible association between the adoption of homeless courts and a decrease in homelessness within the region.

Siddall affirmed that the Redondo Beach homeless court represents a positive paradigm shift in “our approach to homelessness and criminal justice.”

Siddall remarked that he stands behind the Tiny Home model as a means to provide safe, clean, and private temporary housing to individuals in need. 

Addressing challenges dealing with Mental Illness in the criminal justice system

Graphic courtesy of the National Alliance on Mental Illness 

Siddall aims to address the intersection of mental illness and criminal justice, advocating for the establishment of long-term infrastructure to accommodate individuals with mental health needs. 

Expressing concern over the lack of appropriate facilities for mentally ill individuals within the current system, Siddall proposes the creation of specialized lockdown facilities akin to state mental hospitals of the past. By separating violent offenders from those with mental illness, he aims to ensure the safety and well-being of both populations while providing necessary treatment and support.

Rehabilitation Over Incarceration

1590 E 114th Street at the edge of Nickerson Gardens, a sprawling public housing complex in Watts in South LA. (Screenshot/YouTube)

“I am not an abolitionist,” Siddall told the Blade. “There are certain people who need to be in prison. But there are other individuals who can be diverted. You can work to get them out of the system so that they do not become repeat customers.”

Siddall recounted one instance wherein he played a pivotal role in rehabilitating a gang member, showcasing the transformative potential of compassionate advocacy within the criminal justice system. 

Assigned to handle a surge in crimes within Nickerson Gardens, a sprawling public housing complex in Watts, Los Angeles, Siddall encountered a challenge involving gang affiliation. In this instance, Siddall faced a pivotal decision regarding a member of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang.

Bounty Hunter Bloods gang members as seen within Nickerson Gardens in Watts 2019. (Screenshot/YouTube)

Amidst the backdrop of one of Los Angeles’ most notorious gang-ridden areas, Siddall identified three individuals, two deeply entrenched in gang activities and a third less immersed. Recognizing the potential for rehabilitation, Siddall feared that incarcerating this third individual could perpetuate a cycle of criminal behavior, creating a “career criminal,” in the place of a rehabilitated citizen.

Opting for probation instead, Siddall and his team closely monitored the individual’s progress. Over time, their efforts paid off as the individual successfully distanced himself from gang life. He secured employment at UPS, established a family, and ultimately found success, a testament to Siddall’s belief in rehabilitation and second chances.

Siddall’s dedication to his client’s rehabilitation journey exemplifies the broader efforts to address underlying issues contributing to criminal behavior he told the Blade. 

Personal journey, from a family of immigrants

Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Eric Siddall greeting Pope Francis at the Galileo Foundation summit on Faith & Philanthropy, held at the Vatican in October 2022.
(Photo Credit: Eric Siddall)

In addition to his policy proposals, Siddall opened up about his personal journey, citing his experiences as a gay father and a member of marginalized communities as driving forces behind his commitment to reforming the criminal justice system. Reflecting on his upbringing in a family of immigrants. 

Siddall’s family background, deeply rooted in public service by both parents, provides him with a unique perspective on the issues facing Los Angeles. Raised by a mother who served as a U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner and a father who worked as a deputy public defender, Siddall’s upbringing instilled in him a strong sense of justice and community responsibility throughout his 17-year career at the DA’s office. Siddall said he is further motivated after witnessing his mother’s pioneering role as a Latina lawyer throughout his childhood. Siddall emphasized the importance of empathy with his mother’s situation in his approach to justice.

“When you see how our system works and how few resources are spent in these marginalized communities, it makes you want to fight for a better future,” Siddall told the Blade, underscoring his dedication to advocating for disenfranchised communities.

Siddall’s platform also emphasizes his dedication to curbing gun violence, proposing the establishment of a specialized unit and fostering collaboration with federal agencies to enhance prosecution efforts. 

Stark alternative to the status quo

Eric Siddall with his partner Jared Schachner. (Photo Credit: Eric Siddall)

Siddall advocates for a balanced approach that prioritizes public safety while advocating for sustainable reforms. His campaign emphasizes reducing recidivism, ending mass incarceration, and addressing the root causes of crime without compromising safety. 

With a background in prosecuting violent criminals and advocating for responsible reforms, Siddall’s platform focuses on working with the Violence Reduction Division and collaborating with law enforcement agencies to target violent offenders. He also emphasizes the need for greater investment in mental health and addiction services, proposing a new county facility for treating violent individuals with mental health conditions. 

Siddall’s campaign has garnered support from the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, positioning him as a candidate committed to fighting crime, restoring public trust, and enacting responsible reforms for a safer and healthier Los Angeles County.

Siddall has tackled complex cases in underserved neighborhoods, emphasizing the defendant’s resilience and genuine remorse where warranted. His proactive approach to law enforcement has not only resulted in successful prosecutions but also advocated for sentence reductions in cases of genuine rehabilitation.

In contrast to Gascón’s approach to mental health and homelessness, Siddall advocates for a more proactive approach. 

As the race for District Attorney heats up, Siddall’s campaign presents a stark alternative to the status quo, promising a safer Los Angeles for all residents. With his track record, bold initiatives, and widespread support, Siddall says he embodies the values of integrity, fairness, and resilience, offering a path forward toward a brighter future for Los Angeles County and its residents.

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California Politics

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate forum on LGBTQ+ issues held

In their collective pledge of support for the Equality Act, Schiff, Lee, and Porter reaffirmed their commitment to advancing equality



Rep. Adam Schiff answers questions from Politico's Dustin Gardiner and Simha Haddad from the Los Angeles Blade, Saturday Feb. 3 at Democratic U.S. Senate candidate forum on LGBTQ+ issues held at the LA LGBT Center. (Photo by Roby Sobieski)

LOS ANGELES – With the primaries fast approaching, Democratic U.S. Reps. Adam Schiff, Barbara Lee, and Katie Porter pledged their unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community in a pivotal forum held at the Los Angeles LGBT Center on Saturday.

The forum, made possible by the collaborative efforts of the Center, Equality California, and the TransLatin@ Coalition, saw a robust discussion moderated by Dustin Gardiner from Politico and Simha Haddad from the Los Angeles Blade.

Representative Adam Schiff, a stalwart figure in California’s 30th Congressional District, highlighted his extensive record of advocacy and legislative accomplishments. Born and raised in California, Schiff’s journey from federal prosecutor to his current position as a senior member of the House Committee on the Judiciary underscores his commitment to justice and equality. Throughout his tenure, Schiff has championed LGBTQ+ rights, environmental protection, and criminal justice reform, earning accolades for his unwavering dedication to progressive causes.

Rep. Katie Porter. (Photo by Roby Sobieski)

Representative Katie Porter, known for her relentless advocacy on behalf of consumers and middle-class families, brought her unique perspective to the forefront. A staunch opponent of corporate greed and special interests, Porter’s commitment to ethical governance resonated strongly with the audience. From her groundbreaking work as a consumer protection attorney to her tenure in Congress, Porter’s dedication to fighting for the rights of all Americans has remained unwavering.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a trailblazer in her own right, emphasized the importance of grassroots organizing and coalition-building in advancing LGBTQ+ equality. With a career spanning decades, Lee’s leadership on issues such as poverty alleviation and HIV/AIDS prevention has earned her widespread acclaim. As the highest-ranking African American woman in Democratic House leadership, Lee continues to be a vocal advocate for marginalized communities, both at home and abroad.

Rep. Barbara Lee (Photo by Roby Sobieski)

During the forum, the candidates articulated their visions for a more inclusive and equitable future. Schiff vowed to leverage his high-ranking positions and connections to prioritize LGBTQIA+ rights, while Porter emphasized the importance of empathy and compassion in safeguarding the rights of LGBTQIA+ children. Lee called for bold action to defund institutions that fail to uphold the civil rights of LGBTQIA+ individuals, underscoring the urgency of the fight for equality.

In their collective pledge of support for the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBTQ+ rights bill, Schiff, Lee, and Porter reaffirmed their commitment to advancing equality and justice for all. As California’s U.S. Senate race heats up, the candidates’ unwavering dedication to LGBTQ+ rights serves as a testament to the enduring strength of the progressive movement.

As the primaries draw near, Californians have a critical opportunity to elect leaders who will champion LGBTQ+ equality and uphold the values of justice and inclusion. With candidates like Schiff, Lee, and Porter at the forefront, the fight for a more just and equitable future continues unabated.

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California Politics

Bill requiring collection of LGBTQ health data introduced

The state’s auditor has faulted the California Department of Public Health for being sclerotic with its efforts to collect LGBTQ demographics



Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) speaking at the Herbst Theatre for the opening of ‘Songs of Truth’ this past June by the Golden Gate Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. (Photo by Tommy Lau)

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill 957, legislation to require state health agencies to collect sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data alongside other demographic information in order to identify and combat health disparities.

The bill enacts the full recommendations of last year’s state audit, which found that the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) failure to collect SOGI data impacted its ability to protect LGBTQ health. 

The Bay Area Reported noted in its coverage:

The state’s auditor has faulted the California Department of Public Health for being sclerotic with its efforts to collect LGBTQ demographics and criticized the agency for having inconsistent policies on how local health officials should be gathering such information. In a report released Thursday, the auditor suggested lawmakers need to take additional legislative steps to address the ongoing issues with the collection of sexual orientation and gender identity data.

“The lack of consistent SOGI data collection procedures, and ultimately the low number of Public Health forms that currently collect SOGI data, indicate that changes to state law may be warranted to compel more consistent and useful SOGI data collection practices,” concluded California State Auditor Grant Parks in an April 27 letter he submitted to state leaders.

SB 957 builds on SB 932 (Wiener, Chapter 183, Statutes of 2020) and AB 959 (Chiu, Chapter 565, Statutes of 2015), which enacted the first requirements for the collection of SOGI data from state health agencies. Last year’s audit found that the state health department is sidestepping these requirements, and SB 957 closes the loopholes that allows evasion of the intent of laws that have been on the books for nearly a decade.

“While LGBTQ people have emerged from the shadows in many respects, in the realm of public health we’re still in the dark,” said Wiener. “California is still not collecting adequate data to understand the unique health challenges faced by LGBTQ people. By forcing our department of public health to finally do so, SB 957 takes us one step closer to true health equity.”

CDPH collects a range of demographic information, such as race and ethnicity, through voluntary reporting to better understand inequities in the California health system. Because of stigma and the criminalization of LGBTQ people, the agency did not collect SOGI data for many years.

To combat that stigma and the insidious risks it poses to LGBTQ health, in 2015 then-Assemblymember David Chiu authored AB 959, which was signed into law in 2015. The law required specified state departments, including CDPH, to collect and report voluntarily provided self-identification SOGI data when collecting other demographic data, such as ethnicity, age, and race.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the lack of adequate LGBTQ health data. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) found that because LGBTQ people are more likely to work in jobs in highly affected industries, often with more exposure and/or higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis, those in the LGBTQ community were particularly vulnerable. Yet while state and federal agencies were ultimately able to track COVID’s disparate impacts on individuals of different races and ethnicities, no data was collected on LGBTQ impacts. 

In response to this failure to understand the LGBTQ community’s experiences of the COVID-19 crisis, Senator Wiener authored SB 932, which was signed into law in 2020. The law required that electronic reporting tools used by local health officers for reporting communicable diseases include the capacity to collect and report SOGI data, and mandated that health care providers in California report SOGI data, if known, for all reportable communicable diseases.

The MPX outbreak of 2022 showed once again the danger of leaving LGBTQ health invisible to the public health system. 

In 2023, the California State Auditor conducted an audit of CDPH and its role in collecting, reporting, and using SOGI data. The audit found that CDPH has been slow to adopt and enforce standardized definitions, guidelines, and training to ensure the consistent collection and reporting of SOGI data, which has limited its ability to identify and address health disparities among LGBTQ+ people.

A key finding of the report was that CDPH collects SOGI data on only a small portion of the forms it uses to gather demographic data. Of the 129 forms CDPH uses to collect demographic data, just 17 collect complete SOGI data.

The Department is able to sidestep the requirements of SB 959 because most of the forms it uses to collect data are administered by third parties, not the Department directly. Of the 129 forms reviewed that collect demographic data, 105 were exempt from collecting SOGI data. Ninety of those forms were exempt because a third party, such as a local health jurisdiction – or health care provider – collects the data separately. The other 15 forms were exempt due to federal guidelines on demographic data collection. Of the 24 forms required to collect SOGI data, only 17 collect complete SOGI data and the remaining 7 only collect partial data. 

To ensure that CDPH collects complete SOGI data to effectively implement and deliver critical services for LGBTQ+ people, SB 957 will Implement the recommendations from the audit report by amending existing law to require CPDH to: 

  • Collect SOGI data from third-party entities, including local health jurisdictions, on any forms or electronic data systems unless prohibited by federal or state law;
  • Provide an annual report to the public and to the Legislature on its efforts to collect, analyze, and report SOGI data;
  • Improve services or program outcomes for underserved LGBTQ+ communities; 
  • Allow voluntarily provided SOGI data to be included with the immunization data

SB 957 is sponsored by Equality California and California LGBTQ Health & Human Services Network.

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California Politics

Out state Senator Toni Atkins announces run for Calif. Governor

The Out lesbian lawmaker is entering a crowded race running against fellow Democrats Tony Thurmond, Betty Yee & Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis



Democratic state Senator Toni Atkins, the outgoing president pro tempore of the state Senate, announced that she is running in the race to replace Governor Gavin Newsom who is term limited. (Screenshot/YouTube CBS 8 San Diego)

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Speaking to an enthusiastic crowd inside San Diego’s Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park Friday, Democratic state Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the outgoing president pro tempore of the state Senate, announced that she is running in the race to succeed Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom who is term limited.

The Out lesbian lawmaker is entering a crowded race running against fellow Democrats, Tony Thurmond, the current State Superintendent of Public Instruction,  former state controller Betty Yee and the state’s Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who was the first to declare her candidacy last April.

CalMatters noted that California’s Attorney General Rob Bonta, who acknowledged last year that he is “seriously considering” seeking the governorship, is still expected to make a bid. Then there’s the question of who might carry the banner for the Republican Party, which has lost the last three gubernatorial elections by nearly 20 percentage points or more and has not won a statewide office in California since 2006.

“In 2026, we have the opportunity to elect a governor who understands, and has lived, the challenges facing Californians struggling to get by and trying to get ahead,” Atkins said then told the crowd, “I am ready to be governor.”

“I have a little over two years to reach almost 27 million eligible voters in California. Based on my speech at our wedding reception, I know Jennifer [LeSar] thinks I am going to try to speak to each one of them individually,” she jokingly said calling out her spouse.

“Of course, I can’t do that,” she added. “But, in asking people for their vote, I do have the obligation to tell folks who I am — and what I’m not. And before I go any further, I want to say to Jennifer, no announcement I ever make, no words I will ever say, can match getting to lawfully say ‘I do’ standing by your side.”

Atkins was introduced at Friday’s event by California Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who previously served in the State Assembly.

“We need someone who will fight for us,” said Weber. “We need someone who understands what it means to be poor and proud at the same time.” The Secretary of State also referenced the current political landscape noting: “I’m almost in tears because of what is happening in the world. I’m here because of the times in which we live. California is more that just a state, it’s a country in itself.”

If she is elected, Atkins would be California’s first openly gay and first woman chief executive. 


Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) was born and raised in rural southwestern Virginia, the daughter of a miner and a seamstress, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Emory & Henry College in Virginia.

In 1985, she moved across the country to San Diego, California, to help care for her sister’s young son while her sister served in the U.S. Navy. In San Diego, before becoming involved in public service, Atkins committed herself to providing safe access to healthcare for women, becoming Director of Clinic Services at Womancare Health Center at the age of 27.

Her foray into public service began when Atkins served as an aide to San Diego City Councilmember and LGBT trailblazer Christine Kehoe. In 2000, she was elected to replace Kehoe as the council’s District 3 representative. During her eight-year tenure, Atkins provided steady leadership as interim Mayor of San Diego amid a challenging and tumultuous time at City Hall.

“Throughout her career, Atkins has been a champion for affordable housing, the natural environment, healthcare, veterans, women, and the LGBTQ community.”

Elected by voters to the state Assembly in 2010, Atkins served there for six years. In 2014, her colleagues selected her to be the Speaker of the Assembly – she became the first San Diegan and the first lesbian to hold the position. Atkins counts a $7.5-billion water bond and creation of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit among her proudest accomplishments in the Assembly.

In 2016, Atkins was elected to represent the 39th District in the state Senate, where she has continued to advocate on behalf of women, LGBTQ, the climate, and increasing the state’s supply of affordable housing. After just one year, she was selected by her colleagues to serve as Senate President pro Tempore. In March 2018, she was sworn in, becoming the first woman and the first openly LGBTQ person to lead the Legislature’s upper house. Atkins is the first person in 150 years, and the third person in California history, to lead both houses of the Legislature.

Throughout her career, Atkins has been a champion for affordable housing, the environment, healthcare, veterans, women, the LGBTQ community, and mitigating the increasing impacts of climate change. She has authored landmark legislation on housing, including SB 2, which created a permanent source of funding for affordable housing, a signature piece of legislation she worked on for several years, and SB 9, which streamlined the process for homeowners to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in single-family zones. In 2022, Pro Tem Atkins introduced the ‘California Dream for All Program,’ an innovative new way for the state to help first-time homebuyers dramatically lower or eliminate their down-payment requirements and lower monthly mortgage payments. That same year, she authored several critical pieces of legislation, including SB 1375, which allows qualified nurse practitioners to provide abortions without the supervision of a physician, and SCA 10, a constitutional amendment to make explicit the fundamental right to abortion and contraceptives.

Senator Atkins lives in the South Park community of San Diego with her spouse, Jennifer, and their dogs, Joey and Mia.

Senator Toni Atkins announces run for California Governor in 2026:

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California Politics

Gay GOPer DeMaio may find cold welcome from LGBTQ caucus

“There is also a range when it comes to Republicans- Carl has proven himself to be untrustworthy & hostile in many ways to our community”



Carl DeMaio being interviewed by KCAL-CBS Los Angeles on August14, 2021 as he campaigned to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom. (Photo Credit: Carl DeMaio/Facebook)

By Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor | SAN DIEGO – As soon as gay former Republican San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio in December jumped into the race for the open Assembly District 75 seat, LGBTQ state legislators were wondering if the firebrand conservative would want to join their affinity group for out members of the Legislature should he be elected. And if he did, they jokingly asked who wanted to volunteer to tell him he wasn’t welcome.

They were obvious questions to raise as the 49-year-old DeMaio has vocally disparaged the priorities of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus on his radio show, social media accounts, and the website of Reform California, the organization he chairs “dedicated to taking back our state from the far-Left politicians and special interests.” Several laws authored or supported by caucus members last year made DeMaio’s list of the top five worst California laws in 2024.

Among them was Assembly Bill 1078 authored by gay Assemblymember Corey A. Jackson, Ph.D., (D-Perris), which restricts school boards from censoring instructional materials based on their LGBTQ content or coverage of topics like race. The law, which took effect in the fall as soon as Governor Gavin Newsom signed it, also prohibits public schools in the state from banning books that address those two topic areas.

DeMaio lambasted the bill for only serving “as an infringement of local control over curriculum decisions” and for limiting “the ability of parents and communities to have a say in what is taught in schools.”

He also criticized Senate Bill 407 by gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) that requires foster care officials ensure LGBTQ children in the system are placed with foster families that will be supportive of their sexual orientation or gender identity. DeMaio derisively referred to the bill as requiring foster families “to support gender-bending surgeries and therapies for minor children” if they don’t want to lose their ability to be foster parents.

“At a time when there is a severe shortage of foster homes, this new law is insane and only will hurt foster kids!” argued DeMaio, who had railed against the bill last spring for targeting “foster parents who aren’t woke enough.”

It is no wonder there is already speculation about what a victory by DeMaio in his Assembly bid might mean in terms of his membership in the caucus, which currently has a historic 12 members. Three are set to depart come December, lesbian Senators Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), the soon-to-step-down Senate president pro tempore, and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) due to term limits and gay Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Cupertino) because he is running for Congress this year.

The LGBTQ caucus formed in 2002; members are required to identify with one of the letters of the LGBTQ acronym. To date, straight legislators with LGBTQ children or siblings have been told they are ineligible to join.

There has never been a Republican member. Gay former GOP senator Roy Ashburn came out in 2010 due to being arrested for drunk driving after leaving a Sacramento gay club, but he never joined the caucus and left office later that year when his term expired.

There are at least 30 LGBTQ candidates running for state legislative seats in the March primary that the Bay Area Reporter is aware of, with several seeking the same office. Come November it is expected that at least half of them, if not more, will win their races, with DeMaio seen as having the greatest chances of becoming the first out Republican elected to the California Legislature.

Those who do win will help decide if DeMaio, should he also be declared the winner of his contest, should be allowed to become a member of the LGBTQ caucus, gay Assemblymember Chris Ward (D-San Diego) told the B.A.R. in December when he happened to be in San Francisco for a holiday party and meetings with local leaders and housing advocates. As he is currently vice chair of the affinity group, Ward is set to become chair of the LGBTQ caucus during the 2025-2027 legislative sessions.

“We have not had a conversation about the qualifications for membership. I would imagine the caucus members would find it very difficult to accept someone who is not in support of marriage equality, who is married incidentally, or someone who is not consistent with our core priorities,” said Ward, who endorsed Democrat Kevin Juza in the Assembly race with DeMaio.

Dylan Martin, a spokesperson for DeMaio’s Assembly campaign, did not respond to the B.A.R.’s questions about DeMaio’s interest in becoming a member of the LGBTQ caucus.

DeMaio routinely boasts that he was the first “openly gay man” elected to the San Diego council with his 2008 victory. Yet ever since DeMaio has been harshly criticized for not fighting for LGBTQ rights and cynically using his own sexual orientation in his political campaigns.

While running for his council seat DeMaio did nothing to oppose Proposition 8, California’s 2008 ban on same-sex marriage. He later accepted campaign donations from backers of the homophobic ballot measure during his failed mayoral run in 2012, reportedly after promising not to push an LGBTQ agenda at City Hall.

Two years later he featured his then-boyfriend, Johnathan Hale, in an online ad for his ultimately failed congressional bid, winning praise for being the first known GOP candidate to do so. The men married in 2015 on the occasion of their sixth anniversary of meeting, though DeMaio makes no mention of his husband in his Assembly campaign bio.

In 2020, DeMaio failed to survive a heated primary race when he again ran for Congress. Despite his personal electoral setbacks DeMaio has scored some victories at the ballot box, particularly the successful recall he led of former Democratic state senator Josh Newman in 2018. Newman had drawn DeMaio’s ire for casting the deciding vote the year prior for an increase in the state’s gas and car taxes.

More recently DeMaio has focused on pushing statewide ballot measures via his Reform California position. He is well known in the San Diego area and seen as a formidable contender to succeed termed out Assemblymember Marie Waldron (R-Escondido), as evidenced by the nearly $1 million he has netted ahead of the March primary, in which the top two vote-getters will advance to the November ballot.

Ward told the B.A.R. DeMaio “is a known quantity” and “has a shot” at winning the Assembly seat, which borders on the east his own 78th Assembly District.

“He has a following amongst the Republican base in that Assembly District,” noted Ward, adding that DeMaio speaks to some very “hateful feelings in order to achieve cheap political points. If that is a recipe to win that is unfortunate.”

Wiener told the B.A.R. the issue of DeMaio’s membership in the LGBTQ caucus would need to be addressed should DeMaio win his race. He expressed concern about seeing DeMaio try to derail the affinity group’s legislative work as a caucus member.

“I think we have to definitely take a look at it. I don’t want to go too far out on this, as it should be a caucus discussion and I would want to know what our leadership thinks,” said Wiener. “There is also a range when it comes to Republicans, and Carl has proven himself to be untrustworthy and hostile in many, many ways to our community. I think it could be very problematic; he could end up being a saboteur in our caucus.”

The issue of his being allowed into the affinity group, added Wiener, “is certainly a conversation we will have to have and be respectful of our leadership.”

As for his bill that DeMaio lambasted, Wiener said it makes no sense for the state to be putting foster youth into homes that could be hostile to them. He noted LGBTQ youth can come out at any age and years after being paired with their foster parents, so it is important to have the policy in place when screening potential foster families.

“The idea we would put a kid in a foster home that is then going to kick that kid out when the kid comes out makes no sense. Why on earth would we ever do that?” asked Wiener. “Foster parents can have any opinion they want. But when you are taking care of a child on behalf of the state of California, you should be aware of and able to comply with the legal requirement not to discriminate against these kids.”


The preceding article was previously published by The Bay Area Reporter and is republished with permission.

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