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California rules state contractors must offer equal benefits to trans staff

California rules state contractors must offer equal benefits to trans staff

The California State Capitol building in Sacramento

The Governor of California, Jerry Brown, yesterday signed into law a historic bill that requires all companies that do significant business with the state offer the same health care and benefits to transgender employees as they do to non-trans workers.

California is the first US state to introduce such a ruling. Senate Bill 703, which takes effect on 1 January 2016, will require that any state contractor entering into a contract to the amount of $100,000 or more must offer the same benefits to all staff regardless of gender identity.

The bill was authored by Sen. Mark Leno and was co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California and Transgender Law Center.

‘When transgender people are denied equal access to health care, we are singled out for serious health risks and financial hardship,’ said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi in a statement. ‘Providing equal benefits makes economic sense and will help protect transgender workers and our families.’

Governor Jerry Brown
Governor Jerry Brown

‘In signing SB 703, Governor Brown has made California the first state in the nation to refuse to contract with businesses and other entities that discriminate against their transgender employees in benefits,’ said NCLR Government Policy Director Geoff Kors.

‘Once again, California’s governor and legislature are leading the nation in ending discrimination and ensuring that taxpayer funds don’t go to those who discriminate.’

The legislation will apply to contractors based within the state and those outside the state that wish to bid for contracts.

‘California law already stipulates that employers cannot deny transgender people health care and other benefits, but a loophole in state law has allowed companies that contract with the state to refuse equal health coverage,’ said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco).

‘This bill closes that loophole. Denying equal benefits to employees at the same company based on gender identity is harmful and wrong.’

As well as signing SB 703, Gov. Brown put his signature to two other laws that will have an impact on LGBT people.

Assembly Bill 960, provides that unmarried couples using assisted reproduction to become parents will be recognized as such on the same terms as married parents from the moment their child is born. The law will directly impact LGBT people who use home insemination methods to achieve parenthood.

He also signed the LGBT Disparities Reduction Act (Assembly Bill 959), a bill designed to ensure that LGBT individuals in California have their health needs more accurately monitored.

Again sponsored by Equality California, the bill will allow specified state agencies that oversee health and well-being programs to collect voluntary information about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) when collecting other types of demographic data. This means the agencies will be able to identify trends affecting LGBT communities and respond accordingly.

When AB 959 was passed by senate committee in July, Equality California’s Executive Director, Rick Zbur, welcomed it, saying, ‘While we have accomplished much in recent years, both in California and nationwide, eliminating healthcare disparities suffered by LGBT people is one of the next major chapters of our movement.

‘The pervasive discrimination still confronting our community shows up in our overall health, with high rates of substance abuse, depression and suicide, but we can’t begin to treat the problem if we don’t know its size. This legislation will help public programs target those most in need.’


Main image: Rafał Konieczny licensed under CC-by-SA 4.0