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OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today filed a petition for review before the California Supreme Court in defense of anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ residents of long-term care facilities in the state. The protections were codified into law as part of the LGBTQ Senior Bill of Rights, which was enacted through Senate Bill 219 (SB 219) by the California Legislature in 2017. Specifically, the law prohibits long-term care facility staff from discriminating against transgender residents by intentionally “deadnaming” them — that is, calling a transgender person by the name they were assigned at birth — or willfully using the wrong pronouns in referring to them. In the brief filed today, Attorney General Bonta urges the California Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeal’s erroneous decision, and restore SB 219’s protections for LGBTQ seniors and other long-term care facility residents.
“Discrimination isn’t about one person or one community. When people are unlawfully subjected to hateful, demeaning rhetoric, it hurts all of us,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “State law protects people from racist speech in the workplace — and, likewise, there’s no exception just because it’s transphobic instead. Let’s be clear: Repeatedly, willfully misgendering or deadnaming someone is harassment. Many of our seniors here in California led the charge for LGBTQ rights nationwide. Our seniors and other long-term care residents shouldn’t be forced to re-live those fights in the 21st century. That’s part of why we’re urging the California Supreme Court to review this case.”
“I want to thank the Attorney General for his leadership and support for LGBTQ seniors,” said California State Senator Scott Wiener. “In response to the dangerous decision by the Court of Appeal to overturn key protections for trans seniors, Attorney General Bonta is stepping up to appeal this bad decision. It’s never ok to intentionally and repeatedly misgender a transgender person. This isn’t a matter of political opinion; it’s straight-up harassment. We must ensure that all marginalized people — including trans seniors living in nursing homes — are treated with respect and dignity. This misguided decision is terrible, and we will fight it.”
“California seniors deserve to age with dignity and respect,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur. “It’s unconscionable that a court would allow blatant harassment of our LGBTQ+ elders. We are so grateful to Attorney General Bonta for appealing this outrageous decision and standing up for full, lived equality for all LGBTQ+ people.”
Despite years of progress, harassment against transgender Americans remains pervasive — and deadnaming and misgendering, in particular, are two of the most common types of verbal harassment. Deliberately using the wrong pronoun to refer to a transgender person conveys that the person’s identity is not worthy of respect. At its core, such language stigmatizes transgender people and wrongfully suggests they are not welcome members of society. Although California already provides some of the strongest civil rights protections in the nation, LGBTQ seniors are disproportionately vulnerable to discrimination, marginalization, or isolation, particularly in the long-term care context. Unfortunately, many LGBTQ seniors and other individuals in long-term care, often after many years of living openly, have been forced to confront discrimination or hide who they are in these new settings. In addition to the component of the law at issue in Taking Offense v. California, SB 219 broadly supports LGBTQ seniors through a number of avenues, including specifically prohibiting discrimination in admissions, transfer, eviction, room assignment, and visitation.
A copy of the petition is available here.