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    California Advances LGBT Rights as Nation Struggles with Equality

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting

    The protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, last month revealed a sad fact—not all Americans believe in equality and justice for all. We subsequently saw the President defend these hateful views and, in a direct attack on the LGBT community, he signed a directive banning transgender individuals from serving in the military.

    This setback for transgender rights is repulsive, but not surprising. Rolling back on the progressive actions from the Obama Administration boosts the President’s far-right supporters. But there has been a silver lining in this storm. Allies to the community are speaking out and fighting back.

    While Secretary of Defense James Mattis figures out how his department will implement the ban, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) have introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to protect transgender service members from the ban.

    Additionally, the American Civil Liberties Union and Equality California have filed lawsuits on behalf of transgender service members challenging the constitutionality of the ban as a violation of their equal protection rights. 

    Whatever it takes, whether it is through Congress or through the courts, we will fight this injustice together, because civil rights are meaningful only when they apply the same to everyone. 

    While California can’t pass legislation impacting military service, we passed Assembly Joint Resolution 24, which calls on Mattis to continue allowing transgender service members to serve their country and declares that: “There is no lawful or practical reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave our military—regardless of their gender expression or gender identity.”

    The California State Legislature has also passed key bills to further protect the rights and dignity of the LGBT community. If signed by Governor Jerry Brown, California will show the nation that there is another path than the direction the White House is taking us. And, it’s much better!

    • Senate Bill (SB) 179, the Gender Recognition Act of 2017, would create a third, non-binary gender marker on driver’s licenses, birth certificates, identity cards, and gender-change court orders;
    • SB 219, the Seniors Long Term Care Bill of Rights, protects LBGT seniors living in long term care facilities against discrimination;
    • SB 239 helps end the stigma against people living with HIV by eliminating draconian HIV-specific criminal laws that impose harsh penalties;
    • SB 310, the Name and Dignity Act, allows transgender people facing incarceration to be able to petition the court to change their legal name or gender;
    • Assembly Bill (AB) 677 directs state agencies on education and employment to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity when demographic data is being collected, because LGBT people face disparities in health and well-being;
    • AB 1556 removes gendered terms from the Fair Employment and Housing Act to ensure that transgender and non-binary people have the same protections as cisgender individuals.

    As Governor Brown considers these bills, you have a chance to speak out and be heard by contacting him through his website (www.gov.ca.gov). We may endure wave after wave of slights and injustices from this White House, but we can strengthen our state laws while we weather this storm from Washington. By getting involved at this critical time, you can help to strengthen equality in California.

    Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, Daly City, and parts of South San Francisco.