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10 Laws to Change When Almost Anything is Possible

10 Laws to Change When Almost Anything is Possible

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While activists battle conservative lawmakers over things like the "don't say gay" bill in Tennessee, California found itself with both a legislature and governor willing to pass LGBT-supportive bills. So which laws change when everything is on the table?

As of Monday, California Gov. Jerry Brown had signed 10 new bills into law in 2011. They deal with a range of issues, including education and judicial appointments. State Sen. Christine Kehoe called Brown's most recent approval of seven laws on Monday (three others were approved earlier this year) a "watershed year in the California legislature."

While California passed 10 new laws, lawmakers weren't merely playing catch-up on a roster of missing rights. Before this year, the state already had several protections for its LGBT employees in the workplace and for students. Gay parents have been largely able to adopt, conceive, raise, and share custody of children.

Of course, the state is mired in legal challenges over marriage equality, putting that issue off the table. It now recognizes domestic partnerships, and the marriages of those who were wed after the California Supreme Court declared the state marriage ban unconstitutional but before Proposition 8 constitutionally barred marriage equality.

Still, the state passed a slate of new laws to ensure equality for all citizens. Here, we take a look at some of the newest Equality California-backed policies, and how they will impact the everyday lives of LGBT citizens.

Only two of the 12 pieces of proposed legislation that Equality California backed were vetoed: one bill requiring health care professionals be trained to understand LGBT issues, and another that added voluntary gender and sexuality questions to two key statewide health surveys.

Explore the 10 new laws on the following pages.

Anti-bullying policies in schools (Assemblyman Tom Ammiano): "Seth's Law" tightens anti-bullying policies in California schools by ensuring that all schools have clear and consistent policies, clearer guidelines for teachers and administrators, and established shorter timelines for investigating claims of bullying. The bill was named after Seth Walsh, a boy who committed suicide after enduring bullying from classmates.

Teaching LGBT history (Sen. Mark Leno): The FAIR Education Act requires California schools to integrate factual, age-appropriate lessons about the history, current events and social movements of people with disabilities, people of color and LGBT people into existing social studies courses.

Keeping college students safe (Assemblyman Marty Block): The Equality and Equal Access in Higher Education law would request the governing bodies of the California State University, University of California, and each community college district to adopt and enforce policies on harassment, intimidation, and bullying. It also requires each campus to have at least one employee charged with addressing the needs of LGBT faculty, staff, and students. The bill also revised the definition of gender to include "gender expression."

Curbing custody disputes for gay parents (Assemblyman Jerry Hill): The Protection of Parent-Child Relationships Act clarifies that the courts can consider the relationship between the child and his or her non-biological parents when they are asked to rule on who the child's legal parents are when the child has both a presumed parent and a parent established by a voluntary declaration of paternity. This bill ensures that California's parentage laws continue to protect and preserve children's established family relationships.

Honoring same-sex couples (Sen. Mark Leno): The Domestic Partnership Equality Act corrects three differences between marriage and domestic partnerships, including requirements that same-sex couples live together before entering into a domestic partnership.

Expanding protections for gender non-conforming and trans people (Assemblywoman Toni Atkins): The Gender Non-Discrimination Act takes existing protections based on gender identity and expression and enumerates these protected categories in specified non-discrimination laws.

Making gender identification easier (Assemblyman Alan Lowenthal): The Vital Statistics Modernization Act streamlines the existing process for making a petition for a court order recognizing a change of gender and obtaining an updated birth certificate, bringing state vital statistics law in line with federal standards.

Ending state-sanctioned discrimination (Sen. Christine Kehoe): The Equal Benefits Bill prohibits the state from entering into contracts of more than $100,000 with companies that discriminate on the basis of the gender or sexual orientation of their employees' spouses or domestic partners.

1031_financex390Diversifying the judicial branch (Sen. Ellen Corbett): The Judicial Applicant and Appointment Demographics Inclusion Act ensures that voluntary data on the gender identity and sexual orientation of potential judges is gathered through the state's Judicial Applicant Data Report, alongside existing questions on gender and racial or ethnic identity, in order to help ensure diversity of judges appointed to California courts.

Guaranteeing fair insurance (Sen. Ted Lieu): The Insurance Non-Discrimination Act closes a loophole in California law that allowed some employers that operate in multiple states to discriminate by not providing the same coverage for domestic partners as they provide for spouses. The bill requires that any insurance policy sold or issued in California must comply with the state's non-discrimination requirements.
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