LGBT individuals are those who identify as belonging somewhere on the homosexual or trans spectrum. It is imperative to note that LGBT is a bit of an outdated acronym. The umbrella term has been expanded to include Q and +, to ensure all members of the community are represented:

  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Transgender
  • Queer
  • + to represent other sexualities and gender identities, such as asexual, intersex, etc.

The term LGBTQ rights refers to the civil liberties, rights, and protections afforded to those who identify as part of the community. Unfortunately, not every state maintains the same rights as others. Additionally, rights on the federal level are also subject to change with each president’s administration.

As of 2020, same-sex couples are allowed to marry in all fifty states; however, in 31 states, there are no explicit employment protections for transgender employees. What this means is that in those 31 states, an employer may legally discriminate against and terminate an employee simply because they are transgender. The American Civil Liberties Union provides up to date information regarding LGBTQ+ rights.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the term “gay marriage” is sometimes used instead of same-sex marriage. The two are not exactly interchangeable; gay marriage refers to a marriage between two people whose sexuality is gay, whereas same-sex marriage refers to a marriage between two people who are of the same gender. This is important to note, as sexuality and gender identity are not synonymous. However, the two terms may be used to refer to each other throughout this article for ease of understanding.

Does California Allow Same Sex Marriage? When Did California Allow Gay Marriage?

Gay marriage rights in California have largely been similar throughout the 2000s. California was one of the first states to allow same-sex marriage, as far back as 2008. California gay marriage laws were threatened by ballot Proposition 8, which was created by opponents of same-sex marriages. The state constitutional amendment sought to ban legal marriage for the LGBTQ+ community. However, the Supreme Court case Obergefell v Hodges in 2015 has since declared that same-sex marriage is a national right. California’s Prop 8 was ruled as unconstitutional.

Since 2013, all married couples in California are to be treated by the federal government as married. What this means is that all married couples, including same-sex couples, are entitled the same rights and legal status. Some examples include, but may not be limited to:

  • Tax benefits;
  • Property ownership;
  • Legal recognition of their relationship in other states;
  • The ability to divorce in the state of their residence, regardless of where the couple was originally married;
  • Immigration benefits; and
  • Federal benefits, such as social security, medical benefits, and life insurance entitlement.

The entitlement to these rights and benefits proves why it is imperative that same-sex marriages are recognized at both the state and federal level. Prior to the 2013 ruling, Section Three of DOMA required that the federal government treated same-sex couples as unmarried. As such, they were prohibited from granting same-sex couples any federal rights, benefits, and protections based on marriage.

What Are the LGBT Rights in California?

There are various other new California LGBT laws; in fact, as of January 2020, there have been 150 state bills and resolutions that are intended to advance LGBTQ+ civil rights. A few examples include:

  • SB-932: Mandates the collection and reporting of sexual orientation and gender identity data for all COVID-19 patients residing in the state of California. This is in response to the state failing to collect such data and how the pandemic affects the LGBTQ+ community;
  • SB-132: This is known as the Transgender Respect, Agency, and Dignity Act. The main goal of SB-132 is to address transgender people being housed in correctional facilities according to the gender assigned to them at birth, as opposed to the gender they actually are;
  • SB-201: This bill would protect the rights of intersex Californians by ensuring they provide informed consent before medically unnecessary procedures are performed on them. Such procedures are generally done at birth in order to determine an intersex baby’s physical gender; the bill would delay such surgery until they are able to make their own medical decisions; and
  • AB-1145: AB-1145 is known as the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Act. The Act would require that a mandated reporter make a report to a specified agency has knowledge of or observes child abuse.

Some other examples of California LGBTQ+ laws include:

  • Adoption and Family Planning: AB 460 which clarifies that both gay and lesbian parents are entitled to infertility coverage under their insurance. Additionally, birth certificates now offer a gender neutral option. On the birth certificate, individuals have the option of putting down mother, father, or parent. Same-sex couples or LGBTQ+ individuals have the right to adopt a child. California also allows same-sex partners to adopt their partner’s child;
  • Hate Crime Protection: According to California’s Penal Code 422.55 PC, it is a hate crime to harass, threaten or harm someone because of their LGBTQ+ status. It is a separate crime to destroy or damage someone’s property, or interfere with someone’s civil rights, because they are LGBTQ+; and
  • FAIR Education Act: the FAIR Education Act in California requires that all schools from K-12 are to provide fair, accurate, inclusive, and respectful representations of LGBTQ+ individuals in history. The educational curriculum has been updated to include more representation of LGBTQ+ individuals, and may not create any negative bias towards those who are LGBTQ+.

What Are Some Examples of LGBT Violations? What Happens if California LGBTQ Laws are Violated?

The state of California prohibits discrimination in employment and housing against LGBTQ+ individuals. Some examples of LGBT violations include:

  • Landlords commonly refuse to rent property to LGBT tenants;
  • Employers can discriminate in a number of ways including in hiring, promotions, providing necessary resources, or harassing LGBTQ+ employees;
  • Refusing to hire someone based on their status as an LGBT individual;
  • Paying an employee less than another employee who performs the same type of work, based on the person’s LGBTQ+ identification;
  • Penalizing an employee for participation in LGBTQ+ activities, such as attending Pride events;
  • Harassing a person due to their LGBT status, such as a coworker harassing another employee; and
  • Places of business often refuse to serve LGBTQ+ individuals or couples;

In 2012, California passed the Gender Nondiscrimination Act. This Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person based on gender expression or gender identity. This also protects individuals who want to use the bathroom of their actual gender, as opposed to the gender assigned to them at birth.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 bans discrimination of individuals based on race, color, national origin, or religion. However, laws governing LGBTQ+ discrimination vary from state to state, as previously mentioned. LGBTQ+ individuals are, unfortunately, not expressly protected under federal anti-discrimination laws. Many states including California have adopted laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In states that do not have these kinds of laws, some cities have adopted similar policies.

If a person’s LGBTQ+ rights have been violated in California, they may file a lawsuit against the discriminatory party. Such lawsuits are generally filed against employers and businesses. In the case of employment discrimination, the first step would be to contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and follow their procedures. Should that prove ineffective, and the case goes to court, a damages award may be ordered to reimburse the discriminated party for any losses associated with the discriminatory acts.

Should I Hire a Lawyer if I Need Help with LGBT Rights in California?

If you live in California and belong to the LGBTQ+ community, and feel your rights have been violated, you should contact a skilled and knowledgeable California family lawyer. An experienced California family attorney will gather evidence to support your case and assist you in pursuing legal action against the party responsible for the discrimination. An experienced attorney can also represent you and your rights in court as needed.