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    Apologizing to the LGBT Community

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    California has some of the best legal protections in the country today for the LGBT community, but the road to get to this point hasn’t been without pain. It is time for the state to apologize for its past policies and actions that discriminated, oppressed and persecuted our lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer residents.

    Assembly Concurrent Resolution 172 apologizes for the injustices brought upon the LGBT community through state laws, many of which allowed criminal charges against people based solely on their sexuality or gender identity. Spearheaded by Assemblyman Evan Low of Silicon Valley, Chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, I am proud to join him as co-author of the resolution and happy to report that the Assembly approved the Apology Resolution last month. ACR 172 is now working its way through the state Senate.

    The recognition of historical prejudice is a necessary step in order for our state to move forward. It’s also an important part of the healing process. In addition to making homosexuality illegal, some of the shameful legislation that mars the Golden State’s past includes forced sterilization, involuntary psychiatric incarceration and the prohibition of same-sex marriage. Thankfully, that is not the California we know today.

    More recently, we’ve seen Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologize to Canada’s LGBT community for government-sponsored discrimination. And before the Obama administration left in early 2017, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry formally apologized to gay, lesbian and other State Department employees who were fired, or otherwise discriminated against in the past, because of their sexual orientation.

    California, too, has issued apologies to certain communities. In 2005, for example, the Apology Act for the 1930s Mexican Repatriation Program became official. It acknowledged the suffering of tens of thousands of Latino families unjustly forced out of California, which was their home. The act also apologized for violations of their basic civil liberties and constitutional rights during the period of illegal deportation and coerced emigration.

    In 2009, the state also apologized to the Chinese community for discriminatory laws enacted against Chinese Americans living in California during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They were prohibited from owning property, working in the public sector, testifying in court and marrying white Americans. They were also forced to pay unfair taxes at both the state and local levels and could not become naturalized citizens.

    California has a chance to say that we were wrong in our historical treatment of the LGBT community. While we cannot take away the hurt and damage done by our previous policies, ACR 172 is a great step to ensure discriminatory laws stay in our past. If it clears the remaining legislative hurdles, we would be the first state in the nation to express remorse for unjust actions taken against the LGBT community.

    The resolution concludes with a commitment to ensuring our state remains an inclusive one, preserving the rights of all people. That is the California we want.

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