Alex Blaze

California's government could help LGBT people more

Filed By Alex Blaze | August 24, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: California, DOMA, LGBT, marriage, politics

Here's some better than usual pre-election pandering:

Same-sexMarriageImage.jpg"President Obama has called this law abhorrent in the way it denies more than 1,000 federal rights to same-sex couples," Assemblywoman Brownley said. "Congress must act now to overturn DOMA, which is rooted in irrational and unfounded prejudice. Married same-sex couples deserve equal access to these benefits."

The state Senate voted 22-12 in favor of AJR 19, a resolution which calls on the President and Congress to overturn the law. The Assembly approved the bill earlier this year.

It's nothing to me personally, nor does it change anything in any concrete sense. In fact, one might wonder why a government that doesn't recognize same-sex marriages is calling out another government for doing the same thing. It's risk-free and they don't have to give up anything.

Either way, though, it's better pandering than what we've come to expect: Republicans fear-monger about LGBT people while Democrats run for the hills, promising themselves they'll never do anything as stupid as help the queers again.

Anyway, they also passed another bill that won't do anything:

California would officially end a requirement that a state agency research the causes and cures for homosexuality under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The bill updating a 60-year-old law was sent back to the Assembly Monday for final action.

The law passed in 1950 classifies gays as sexual deviants. It requires the Department of Mental Health to research the causes and potential cures for homosexuality.

As Karen posted this weekend, California passed SB 906, a bill that reiterates the fact that churches don't have to perform marriages they don't want to perform. Sure, it's just repeating the First Amendment and it's not even addressing the main reason Prop 8 passed, which is the fear-mongering around children.

If they were really motivated to help the LGBT community, maybe they could have done something about this:

homeless-stats.jpg1) How many homeless youth in the city/state?

a) Los Angeles: We estimate that there are more than 4,100 homeless youth ages 13 to
21 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
i) This estimate is based on an LA countywide total of 88,345 homeless people
counted in the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) 2005 census, and
figures for other localities within Los Angeles County but outside the LA Continuum
of Care (CoC) area. Of that total, 4.7 percent are between 13 and 21 years of age.

b) California: There is no publicly available estimate of the number of homeless youth
i) In 2005 there were 170,270 homeless people statewide in California according to the
National Alliance to End Homelessness.

2) How many are LGBT?

a) Los Angeles: Between 830 and 1,660 of these homeless youth are LGBT.
i) This calculation is based on research that demonstrates that 20 to 40 percent of all
homeless youth identify LGBT.
b) California: It is not possible to estimate the number of homeless youth statewide who
are LGBT.

We don't even know how many youth are living in the streets, a number that must have increased as unemployment sky-rocketed in California.

Another problem they could tackle to impress us is this one:

Health officials say the rate of HIV among people who are incarcerated is nearly seven times higher than the general population.

Distributing condoms to inmates is one way to prevent the spread of HIV, but that idea remains controversial.[...]

Captain Dan Pena runs the detention support division for the San Diego County Sheriff's Department. He oversees seven jails and nearly 5,200 inmates.

Pena says his department has no interest in handing out condoms.

"Primarily the reason for that, is sexual activity in jails or prisons is illegal; it's actually a felony," Pena said. "And because of that, we would not want to send a mixed message to the inmate population that knowing this is a crime, here's a condom. So that's our primary position."

Pena says San Diego County controls HIV in jails through education, and strict supervision of inmates. He says until there's evidence that handing out condoms in jail reduces the rate of HIV, the county won't change its approach.[...]

San Francisco County has studied the effects of its program. Officials say sexual activity in jail has not increased. There have been no reports of smuggling with condoms. Inmates report they have engaged in less high-risk behavior.

Based on San Francisco County's model, the state of California recently ended a one-year pilot program in Solano State prison. Some 2,000 inmates had access to a condom machine.

The state is currently evaluating the program. In the meantime, less than ten jails or prison systems nationwide distribute condoms.

Not only do California prisoners have almost no access to condoms, but ADAP funding in prison might also be eliminated:

"By providing nearly full funding for ADAP, the Governor is acknowledging that ADAP is a life-saving program for HIV positive Californians that cannot be subject to cuts," said Anne Donnelly, Director of Health Care Policy. "His proposal will help thousands of Californians living with HIV to maintain healthy and productive lives."

However, Schwarzenegger did not include $9.5 million in his proposal for ADAP to provide medications for HIV-positive people incarcerated in county jails -- a cost that could shift to already cash-strapped counties. This $9.5 million problem comes in the context of $85 million in cuts to state funding of other HIV/AIDS services made in 2009. These cuts decimated critical HIV/AIDS programs including testing, prevention, home health care and housing, which Donnelly said badly need restoration.

And California has plenty of other problems outside of the auspices of liberal LGBT politics, like it's sky-high unemployment rate and public health and education programs that are getting cut right and left. LGBT issues might be the issues that they think they have to deliver on to get LGBT voters, but we tend to vote on a mix of issues as everyone else does. It's just that we tend not to identify ourselves with sexuality or gender in other contexts.

California is definitely one of the better states in terms of LGBT rights and protections, but it's not like they have to resort to symbolic moves just yet to get queer votes. There are still plenty of real problems to deal with.

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Your headline is the understatement of the year.

Yes it is --- but I find it worth pointing out that there are almost 49 other states that are doing even less for their LGBT populations. Other than the political shell game that Alex rightfully describes, is there any particular reason to pick on California?