Pro-LGBT bills moving forward in CA legislature

I am thrilled to report that EQCA-sponsored legislation is moving right along, with two bills passing their first key committee votes yesterday, one to establish Harvey Milk Day, and one to protect LGBT victims of domestic violence.

SB 572, the Harvey Milk Day Bill, passed the Senate Governmental Organization Committee by a 9-4 margin. Introduced last month by Senator Mark Leno (D — San Francisco), it calls for a “day of special significance” to recognize slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

The far-right wants to stop this bill. The Traditional Values Coalition and Capitol Resource Institute lobbied against it in the hearing, saying it would teach youth about a “controversial lifestyle.”

Sen. Dean Florez from Bakersfield countered by asking where the opposition witnesses were from – they responded Inland Empire, Roseville and Sacramento. He then requested to become a co-author of the bill to demonstrate that people living in more conservative parts of the state also support the measure.

Debra Jones, who served alongside Cleve Jones as an intern for then Supervisor Milk in 1978, also testified: “There are some who say that Harvey's contributions to the civil rights movement should merely be acknowledged locally. With that perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy would not be known outside of Atlanta, and the legacy of Cesar Chavez would not be known outside of the Central Valley. Hope doesn't know geographic boundaries.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The legislation was originally introduced last year by then Assemblymember Leno, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, claiming Harvey Milk was not well known enough beyond San Francisco. Since that time, however, Harvey Milk has become a focal point of national conversation following the release of the successful biographical film Milk, for which both Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award. You can use EQCA’s Action Center to urge the governor sign it this time once it reaches his desk.

AB 1003, the LGBT Domestic Violence Services Bill, introduced last month by Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a 5-2 margin.

The rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are equivalent to the rates in opposite-sex relationships. Unfortunately, though, service and support for LGBT survivors of violence still lags far behind that provided for their non-gay counterparts. The LGBT Domestic Violence Services bill corrects this inequity by expanding access for LGBT service providers to funding within a state agency responsible for responding to domestic violence. This bill will both support innovative, proven program models assisting survivors and will also help decrease the overall rate of domestic violence within the LGBT community.

We’re also waiting on bills to protect LGBT prisoner safety, provide accurate ID documents to transgender individuals (possibly a moot point after a recent court victory), make mental health treatment more accessible for LGBT youth, prevent unfair property tax increases and end discrimination against gay men in blood donations. More information can be found at EQCA’s Legislative Center.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of our full 2009 legislative package, coming soon…  


Alice Kessler is the director of government affairs for Equality California.  She blogs for the California Ripple Effect