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    Marriage Rights, Four Years Later

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting

    Fifty years ago this month, the United States Supreme Court overturned state laws restricting interracial marriage.  This got me thinking—where will we stand when we observe the 50th Anniversary of the right for same sex couples to marry?

    Same-sex marriage, while being a hallmark challenge for LGBTQ rights, is not the end of the fight against homophobia and intolerance. There is more to be achieved on the road to equality. What battles are next for the LGBTQ community?

    Consider the Civil Rights Movement following Loving v. Virginia, the appropriately-named decision that abolished laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Even after the decision was made, many states in the South continued to keep anti-interracial marriage laws on the books. It was only in 2000 that Alabama voters removed such laws from their state constitution.

    Loving v. Virginia wasn’t the ending point of the Civil Rights Movement. Racial disparities in the criminal justice system, fair housing, police brutality, and equal pay and employment endure. Fifty years later, African Americans and other communities of color are still fighting for equality.

    LGBTQ activists and allies must continue combatting the ignorance and bigotry of those who fear others based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. In the years since the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 were overturned, the fight for LGBTQ rights has shifted.

    While more states have stopped banning same-sex marriage, many states do not prohibit employment discrimination—meaning that in states like West Virginia, South Carolina, Arizona, Idaho and Wyoming, you can get married on Saturday, only to be fired on Monday.

    The debate has also shifted to a space that’s a little more personal, our restrooms. In 2013, California passed legislation that allows students to have access to school restrooms and locker rooms according to their gender identity. Last year, I authored a law requiring all single-user restrooms in the state to be universally open to every person regardless of their gender identity. This stood in sharp contrast with states like North Carolina requiring people to use restrooms consistent with their gender at birth. Texas is seeking to do the same right now.

    California will continue to lead the way for the LGBTQ community. This year’s state budget includes $4 million to support Office of AIDS programs, $760.8 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program over a two-year period, and ensures that the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) program covers uninsured clients. Additionally, there are the following bills to help the march of equality move forward:

    • AB 677 by Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco) directs state agencies to collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity in education and employment in order to reduce disparities;
    • SB 179, or the Gender Recognition Act of 2017 by Senator Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), allows people to obtain state birth certificates, driver’s licenses and ID cards with a third non-binary gender marker;
    • SB 239 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) decriminalizes HIV-specific laws that impose additional criminal sentences.

    California is behind the LGBTQ community, and we will continue to support legislation and actions to improve the lives of the community. While the LGBTQ Rights Movement has made many gains in the past few years, especially in states like ours, it’s important that we persist and keep the momentum moving forward.

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