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California governor signs bill to provide more supportive homes to LGBT foster youth

Seeks to protect youth disproportionately targeted for harassment and discrimination

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill aimed at making foster care safer and more supportive for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth.

The bill was authored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano and co-sponsored by Equality California and the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. It was approved by the Assembly by a 49-25 vote, and the Senate by a vote of 23-13. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

'We applaud the Governor’s signature on this bill to help ensure that LGBT young people, who are among the most vulnerable children in our state’s child welfare system, have the security and comfort they deserve,' said Clarissa Filgioun, Equality California Board President. 'We are also grateful to Assemblymember Tom Ammiano for his leadership and hard work to pass this important update to out-of-home care guidelines.'

Backers of the new law say that aside from physical and verbal abuse or harassment, instances of unlawful discrimination against LGBT youth in foster care include confiscating LGBT supportive materials or prohibiting the youths from receiving LGBT supportive services offered through LGBT youth groups or resource centers.

There are also many cases of caregivers or service providers refusing to use the youth’s requested name or pronoun, prohibiting them from from wearing clothing consistent with their gender identity, or trying to change the youth’s sexual orientation or gender identity with so-called 'reparative' or 'conversion' counseling.

Supporters of Assembly Bill 1856 had research to back their concerns.

A study of 400 LGBT homeless youth in San Diego revealed that 64% reported that they ran away from at least one out-of-home placement due to harassment or assault, including sexual assault. A New York joint Task Force on Child Welfare and Safety reported that 70% of the LGBT youth study participants experienced physical violence in foster care and 56% said that they lived on the streets at times because they felt it was safer than living in group or foster homes.

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