Notes from Toni – July 2015

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Columns, Featured, News, Notes from Toni | No Comments

By Speaker Toni G. Atkins

Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court made history by ruling to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. It also marked the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act. The Stonewall Riots, the beginning of the modern movement for LGBT rights, started on June 28, 1969. LGBT Pride Month honors the courage, dedication and sacrifices made by members of our community to improve the lives of those without a voice.

Pride Month is about celebrating how far our community has come.


Assembly Speaker Toni G. Atkins hugged a Great Dane during a Humane Society event.
(Courtesy of Toni G. Atkins)

A Gallup poll found that 60 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage. Transgender individuals are more prevalent in mainstream media — from depictions in shows like Orange is the New Black and Transparent to the revealing of Caitlyn Jenner in Vanity Fair — trans folks have never been as visible as they are today.

But these developments didn’t always look possible. It was just seven years ago that Californians passed Proposition 8, and it’s only been within the past two years that we’ve seen rapid developments for marriage equality.

The LGBTQ community has often been an overlooked part of our society but California is leading the way in changing that. We’ve made things better for LGBTQ individuals:

  • We created a transgender student bill of rights, which will allow those students in public schools to join sports teams and have access to school facilities such as restrooms according to their gender identity.
  • We ended the practice of “conversion therapy” for youth.
  • We’re establishing LGBT cultural competency across healthcare sectors.
  • Legislation that requires death certificates to reflect the decedent’s gender identity became active on July 1.

And this work will continue; in the state budget for the coming fiscal year, the California Legislature will address the healthcare needs of the LGBT community. Key highlights include:

  • AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Modernization — financial eligibility for ADAP and Office of AIDS Health Insurance Premium Payment Program will consider family size and increase the income limit.
  • ADAP Enrollment Workers — added $2 million more for local health jurisdictions and $1 million to increase ADAP enrollment.
  • ADAP Linkage to and Retention in Care — the budget appropriates $1.5 million in federal Ryan White base funding to local health jurisdictions and/or community-based organizations to support efforts to re-engage HIV-infected minority clients in medical care and treatment.
  • ADAP Hepatitis C (HCV) Treatment — $6.5 million will go toward HCV treatment costs in ADAP.
  • Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) — we’ve approved $2.2 million for a PrEP Access and Affordability Pilot Program. This initiative will establish educational outreach to at-risk populations and PrEP providers while improving cost-sharing assistance for under-insured individuals.
  • State Syringe Exchange Clearinghouse — the budget includes $3 million to purchase supplies for syringe-exchange programs.
  • Hepatitis C (HCV) — added $2.2 million for pilot projects aimed at preventing the transmission of HCV.

The Assembly Democrats have committed to instituting these programs for the LGBTQ community. Increasing funding for disadvantaged members of our community is vital to advancing our progress.

Pride month is all about celebrating how far we’ve come since Stonewall; while we honor our history and our achievements, we must remember that we need to help improve the lives of everyone — gay, lesbian, straight, or transgender — to continue to move our community forward.

Around the District: I hope you and yours had the happiest of July 4th as we joined together to celebrate our nation … Thank you for standing up for our veterans who will attend Stand Down! Your support for our Socks for Stand Down collection drive netted more than 2,000 pairs of socks for our troubled and homeless veterans. The weekend event starts July 17 at San Diego High School … I look forward to helping to kick off San Diego Pride as the keynote speaker at the Spirit of Stonewall Rally at Balboa Park July 17 and, of course, being part of the parade the next day. Hope to see you there! … I had a great time cuddling kittens and hugging a Great Dane recently at the Humane Society, all for a good cause – 209 animals found their forever homes over Father’s Day weekend when the shelter offered $4 adoptions. I hope you’ll consider a shelter animal when you decide to add a pet to your family.

—Toni G. Atkins is the Speaker of the California State Assembly. For more information, please visit her website, where you can sign up for her e-newsletter or get the latest news on legislation and other activities. You also may follow her on Twitter, @toniatkins.

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