News (USA)

Historic CA legislation takes effect in New Year, expanding LGBT rights

On January 1, three new pieces of legislation expanding rights and resources for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will go into effect in California, reports Equality California.

Among the new laws, each sponsored by Equality California, include a bill that recognizes the marriage of thousands of same-sex couples regardless of when or where they were married, a bill increasing services to LGBT survivors of domestic violence and a third recognizing the contributions of slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

The Marriage Recognition and Family Protection Act, introduced by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), holds that same-sex couples married in any state or nation anytime before the passage of Proposition 8 must be recognized as married spouses in California, regardless of whether they married in California or in another state or nation.

In addition, the new statute also confirms that same-sex couples married outside of California after November 5, 2008, must be given all of the rights, protections and responsibilities of married spouses under California law, with the sole exception of the designation of “marriage.”

“This vital bill will provide much needed protections for same-sex couples who have legally married out of state, or will in the future, and who deserve to be treated like any other married couple,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California.

“This bill will allow same-sex couples to get married in other states and countries and ensure they are treated equally under the law when they return to California. Ultimately, however, restoring the freedom to marry is the only way to ensure that all Californians receive the dignity and respect that come with marriage,” said Kors.

Also becoming state law is the LGBT Domestic Violence Programs Expansion Bill, which was authored by Speaker-Elect Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

The bill expands access for LGBT service providers to a state fund within the California Emergency Management Agency, which supports LGBT-specific domestic violence programs across the state. The fund, originally established as part of another EQCA-sponsored bill in 2006, is subsidized by a $23 fee on domestic partner registrations.

The new bill would also allow for more than four organizations to apply for programmatic funding each fiscal cycle and eliminates the requirement for providers to offer shelter – impediments to many smaller LGBT organizations that inadvertently keep several California communities from providing any services for LGBT survivors of domestic violence.

Harvey Milk Day, which will be celebrated on May 22, 2010, marks the first time in the nation’s history that a state will officially recognize and celebrate the contributions of an openly LGBT person with an annual “day of special significance.” The bill was also introduced by Senator Leno.

“We are grateful to the LGBT Caucus, our allied lawmakers, and the Governor for making these landmark measures the law in California, as these bills will dramatically improve the lives of LGBT Californians and their families,” Kors said. “We look forward to the year ahead and to advancing our mission of achieving true and full equality for LGBT Californians.”

Click for more information about EQCA’s legislation.

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