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    Giving Thanks for Progress

    philThe fight for civil rights inspired me to enter politics, and 2015 has been a particularly inspiring year. As we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to take stock of this year’s progress towards greater equality because there is much to be thankful for.

    The year’s most dramatic breakthrough came with the United States Supreme Court establishing marriage equality as a Constitutional right across the country. Finally, every family has been made whole! This giant leap forward was coupled by passage of new and important state laws taking effect next year.

    Consider these examples that will help preserve the rights of all Californians:

    The Pew Research Center found that women earn 84 percent of what men earn for the same work. Put another way, it takes nearly an additional 40 days for women to earn the same as men in a single year. In 2016, the women of California can fight back with the nation’s most powerful law protecting equal pay, SB 358.

    Two years into implementation of health care reform under the federal Affordable Care Act, the Kaiser Family Foundation found over 40 percent of California’s remaining uninsured are undocumented immigrants. Public health, however, is not confined by constructs like citizenship. Next year, under SB 4, undocumented children can obtain health care through the Medi-Cal program.

    Inspired by violence between law enforcement and people of color across the country, California will have a series of new laws to fight racial profiling. AB 953 requires peace officers to report annually to the Attorney General about why people are stopped, the perceived race of the person stopped, and the outcome. In order to ensure transparency and fairness in the investigation and prosecution of officer involved shootings or instances of excessive force, SB 227 prohibits the use of grand jury investigations of such allegations because they operate in secret.

    There are also new laws to protect the rights of LGBT Californians. SB 703 prohibits the state from contracting with businesses that discriminate against transgender employees in the provision of health benefits. This will expand the reach of state anti-discrimination laws onto companies who do business with California and who are based out of state or self-insured under federal law. AB 827 requires the California Department of Education to take a proactive stance in ensuring our school districts have trained educators who support LGBT student rights through knowledge of school site and community resources. And, to better care for youth in state care, SB 731 requires foster youth placement based on gender identity.

    This burst of new laws is both powerful and compelling. It would not have occurred without the work of many committed advocates who have fought for civil rights long before I had a chance to proudly support the enactment of such laws as a state legislator.

    Although these laws span different communities with different struggles, our common humanity must shape our treatment under the law. Progress towards that objective is the measure for our state and our nation to become more perfect unions. I am very thankful for our strides this year, and hope our momentum is sustained.

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco as well as the cities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City.