California Governor Jerry Brown signed a series of bills last week that got props from LGBT organizations around the country. Those bills included Seth’s Law, an anti-bullying measure named after 13-year-old student Seth Walsh who hanged himself after he had been hounded at school by classmates who perceived him to be gay. A federal investigation later concluded that the Tehachapi Unified School District failed to properly respond to the teen's ongoing harassment. According to On Top magazine, the new law mandates that schools post anti-bullying policies throughout campuses, provide complaint forms on their websites, and give schools a timeline to investigate and resolve complaints.
Brown also signed two important transgender rights bills into law as well. The Gender Nondiscrimination Act makes “gender identity and expression” its own protected category at work, at school, in housing, at public accommodations, and in other settings. The second, the Vital Statistics Modernization Act, “will alleviate the confusion, anxiety and even danger that transgender people face when we have identity documents that do not reflect who we are,” says Masen Davis, Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center. The bill makes it easier for transgender people to get a court-ordered gender change and updated birth certificate.
“Our victory is a testament that California is at its best when we work together to realize the ideal that everyone should be treated fairly and equally,” said Davis. “The barriers that transgender people face are life threatening and we applaud Governor Brown, Assemblymember Atkins, and Assemblymember Lowenthal for their tremendous leadership to remove some of the obstacles that prevent transgender Californians from living as our authentic selves.”
Another bill signing being celebrated is the California Dream Act, a move heralded by gay student activists, like Dream Team LA’s Jorge Gutierrez, who’ve been at the forefront of pushing the immigrant rights bill through. Equality California, the state’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights advocacy group, which launched the “Equality Beyond Borders” project (focusing on increasing support for LGBT inclusive immigration reform among LGBT people) also heralded the new legislation that makes undocumented immigrants eligible to receive state financial aid to attend California universities and community colleges.
The only LGBT-friendly bill Gov. Brown vetoed last week was SB 416, which would have added voluntary demographic questions about sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, domestic partnership status, and spouse's gender to statewide surveys.
MetroWeekly reported that Brown amended his veto with a note that said that determining the content of state health surveys was better handled through the “rigorous and thoughtful process” that exists for making those determinations, rather than through the legislative process.