by Rex Wockner
California’s statewide gay lobby group, Equality California, said Sept. 8 it now has passed 50 pro-gay bills through the state Legislature.
“Partnering with the LGBT Legislative Caucus and allied lawmakers, EQCA has helped move California from a state with extremely limited rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, to the state with the most comprehensive civil rights protections in the nation,” the group said.
The 50-bill milestone was reached when all five EQCA-sponsored bills in the current legislative session passed both houses of the Legislature.
The measures, including a bill establishing a day honoring the late gay activist Harvey Milk and legislation protecting seniors, foster youth and same-sex couples, are headed to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s desk.
“It’s easy to forget how far we’ve come in just 10 short years,” said EQCA Executive Director Geoff Kors. “A decade ago, LGBT people were not protected under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act. Transgender people could be denied routine health care by their insurance providers, and same-sex partners were legal strangers.”
EQCA helped create the country’s first domestic-partner registry, protect LGBT youth in schools and ensure that transgender Californians can secure employment. The group also helped make history in 2005 and 2007 when the California Legislature passed bills granting same-sex couples access to marriage, the only two times any state legislature has done so.
Schwarzenegger vetoed those bills but in May of this year the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage, and weddings began taking place June 16.
“When I first came to Sacramento as an assemblymember in 1994, California literally had no legal protections for LGBT people,” said Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica). “We’ve completely turned that around… . California now has the best, most comprehensive laws in place to protect LGBT people in every aspect of their lives.”
“A decade ago, few people could imagine a California where same-sex couples would be able to marry,” said Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), author of the marriage-equality bills. “Equality California’s strategic and tireless legislative work not only paved the way for this incredible victory in California, but it has also had a transformative effect on the rest of the country, giving hope to millions that the seemingly impossible can be done.”