Senator Wiener’s LGBT Senior Bill of Rights Heads to Assembly for a Final Vote in the Face of Conservative Media Attacks

September 5, 2017

Sacramento Senate Bill 219 by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), which creates an LGBT Senior Bill of Rights for seniors living in long-term care facilities, is awaiting a final vote on the Assembly floor, which could happen as early as this week. Last Friday, SB 219 was approved by the Assembly Appropriations committee. In recent weeks, the bill has come attacks by the right-wing media claiming that the bill will put people in jail for referring to seniors by the wrong gender pronoun. 

“Our LGBT seniors paved the way for our community, and they went to hell and back to ensure our community's survival and growth,” said Senator Wiener. “Ensuring these seniors can age with dignity and respect is the least we can do to support them, especially as they face discrimination, unique health challenges, and frequent lack of family support.”

SB 219 protects LGBT seniors from discrimination in long-term care facilities, such as a facility refusing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronoun, denying admission to a long-term care facility, transferring a resident within a facility or to another facility based on anti-LGBT attitudes of other residents, or evicting or involuntarily discharging a resident from a facility, on the basis of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or HIV status.  In addition, the bill requires that all long-term care facilities post a notice regarding this form of discrimination where its current non-discrimination policy is posted.

In recent weeks, the conservative media has launched attacks against SB 219 by claiming that people will go to jail for using the wrong pronoun for LGBT seniors. Senator Wiener’s full statement on those attacks is below:

“Since the LGBT Senior Bill of Rights was introduced, the Religious Right (the same folks who oppose all LGBT civil rights bills) have attempted multiple lines of attack against the bill. Their first attempts were to go after trans people using the North Carolina ‘trans people will rape you in the bathroom’ absurd argument. After these specious attacks floundered, these opponents of LGBT civil rights came up with a new argument: that if you use the wrong pronoun you'll be criminally prosecuted and jailed. This is a ridiculous and misleading argument that uses fear and distortion of facts as a shield to attack LGBT rights. Anyone with any integrity would dismiss it out of hand. Naturally, Breitbart and Fox News are eagerly pushing the story.”   


Under *already existing* law governing residential care facilities, violations can be charged as misdemeanors. They rarely are charged criminally and certainly not for minor violations. For example, this law covers smoking in waiting rooms or failing to provide an interpreter to a resident. No one is going to jail for that. This is because the criminal penalties only apply if the violation exposed the patient to the risk of death or serious physical harm or other similarly serious factors.  Just as lighting up a cigarette or failing to provide an interpreter won’t lead to prison time, no one is going to jail for referring to someone by the wrong pronoun. And to be clear -- that's *existing* law. SB 219 does not create any new criminal provisions. Instead, the bill simply creates new rights within an existing structure. So the criticism is out of context and designed to mislead people. No one is going to be criminally prosecuted for using the wrong pronoun. It's just more scare tactics by people who oppose all LGBT civil rights protections.”

Equality California is sponsoring SB 219, and Assemblymembers David Chiu (D-San Francisco) and Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona) are co-authors. The bill is also supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, Justice in Aging, the National Association of Social Workers, National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, Alzheimer’s Orange County and others.

For more information about the SB 219 and its supporter, view the Fact Sheet here.