New laws in California provide protection against bullying and other discrimination for individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Several of the laws aim to promote tolerance for LGBT students in schools and universities, and another sets new rules for public.
Seth’s Law (AB 9) requires schools to immediately address bullying incidents, and outlines guides and steps schools must take to address them. It goes into effect July 1.
The bill’s sponsors, Equality California, say that in 2010 “13-year-old Seth Walsh took his own life after years of relentless harassment based on his sexual orientation and gender expression,” according to the Record Gazette newspaper. The sponsors say teachers and school administrators were aware of the harassment but took no action.
Another law (AB 620) asks California public colleges and universities to designate an employee as the point person to address concerns of LGBT students, faculty and staff. The schools would provide demographic information about sexual orientation and gender identity on campuses to help improve conditions for LGBT members.
One measure (SB 48), requiring public schools to include the contributions of LGBT individuals and “other cultural groups” in social studies courses, could take years to implement. That’s because schools review and approve textbooks years in advance.
The law has stirred controversy, but officials say it promotes inclusion. Maureen Latham, assistant superintendent of instructional support services for the Beaumont Unified School District, told the newspaper, “Just as we look for balance in represented groups like the Hmong culture or the Morongo Indians, we will be sure to include any contributions to society of all groups. Maybe textbooks that highlight the accomplishments of Harvey Milk (the state’s first openly gay politician who was killed in 1978) will be appropriate.”
SB 117, signed in September, amends an existing law that prohibits the state from making contracts worth more than $100,000 with companies that discriminate in benefits between employees with spouses and employees with domestic partners. The law now specifies that the state cannot make contracts worth more than $100,000 with companies that discriminate “between employees with spouses or domestic partners of a different sex and employees with spouses or domestic partners of the same sex, or [discriminate] between same-sex and different-sex domestic partners of employees or between same-sex and different-sex spouses of employees.”