California continues to be in on the forefront of advancing equality for LGBT people, and Gov. Jerry Brown (D) recently signed four new pieces of legislation into law creating some specific protections that don’t currently exist in any other state.
“Gay Panic” and “Trans Panic” Defenses Are Now Illegal
“Panic” has long been used as a legal defense to justify violence against LGBT people. It entails defendants claiming that they were surprised to learn — usually once already in a private space — that an individual had a sexual orientation or gender identity different from what they expected. This knowledge somehow triggered in them a violent response against the LGBT individual, and this “heat of the moment” justification could reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter. California has now prohibited such legal defenses.
California previously had a policy of instructing jurors not to be influenced by the sexual orientation or gender identity of either the plaintiff or the defendant. The American Bar Association voted last year to urge other states to adopt that policy or to go further and ban the defense outright. California is the first in the nation to do so.
Transgender Identities Will Be Respected After Death
Officials responsible for completing death certificates will now be responsible for ensuring that one’s certificate matches one’s gender expression. This can be done by either ensuring the death certificate matches the individual’s other legal documents or that it reflects any medical procedures related to gender transition.
Unfortunately, this law was necessary. When activist Christopher Lee passed away in 2012, the coroner identified him as “female” on his death certificate. An amendment to that death certificate was eventually produced, but it was stapled to the original, which remains part of Lee’s legal documentation.
Condoms Can No Longer Justify Sex Worker Arrests
California has become the first state to protect individuals from being arrested on sex worker charges simply for carrying condoms. It unfortunately doesn’t go so far as to totally ban condoms as evidence, but it does require a court to explicitly state that condoms are relevant to a particular case before they can be used as evidence of prostitution.
Police across the country have arrested women for carrying condoms, and this targeting often disproportionately impacts transgender women. Impacted by discrimination and poverty, 43 percent of trans people have turned to the sex industry for financial support at some point in their lives. As a result, transgender women — particularly transgender women of color — are vulnerable to police profiling as sex workers. The ongoing case of Monica Jones, an Arizona woman convicted of “manifestation of prostitution” simple for “walking while trans,” epitomizes this vulnerability.
Health Professionals Will Be Trained To Care For LGBT Patients
Another new law in California ensures that health professionals are provided information about how best to care for patients who may identify as LGBT or intersex.
According to the law, doctors, nurses, and other health care providers will be expected to meet cultural competency standards that include “understanding and applying cultural and ethnic data to the process of clinical care, including, as appropriate, information pertinent to the appropriate treatment of, and provision of care to, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities.”
This law will help correct the inequities LGBT patients experience when they do not have affirming providers. The hope is that this will allow patients to feel more comfortable being open about their identities and thus be able to provide the specific kind of care they deserve.