California may lead the nation in taking significant steps to provide equal rights to its LGBT citizens, but the Golden State has a long way to go before providing full equality, finds a groundbreaking report titled Fair Share for Equality.
“LGBT people face disproportionately high rates of poverty, suicide, homelessness, violence, substance abuse and police profiling compared to the broader community,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, whose EQCA Institute issued the report.
“These problems are even more pronounced for LGBT youth and seniors, people of color, and the transgender and undocumented communities. Ensuring that a fair share of government resources are allocated to address the health and well-being of LGBT people is a top priority for EQCA,” he said.
The report was compiled after a convening of more than 100 leaders from the state’s LGBT community and local organizations, educators, social science experts and legislators to highlight and address the health and well-being disparities between California’s LGBT community and the broader community. The meeting was held Jan. 14 in Sacramento.
Program areas identified as most in need of additional funding and programmatic attention include those that:
• Address LGBT youth homelessness and create culturally competent foster care and support services for LGBT youth
• Create safe and culturally competent school environments
• Reduce substance abuse among LGBT Californians and address high rates of suicide among LGBT youth
• Reduce violence and differential treatment for LGBT people within the criminal justice system
• Address the unique needs of LGBT seniors
• Adequately fund HIV prevention and treatment including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
• Provide healthcare for undocumented LGBT people
The report intends to help lawmakers and officials address these disparities by educating policy makers and enabling them to better understand the needs of California’s LGBT community.
Collecting data regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in connection with the provision of social services and the implementation of government programs is integral and necessary to evaluate whether government programs are effectively reaching LGBT people and addressing the widespread disparities the LGBT community experiences.
While California leads the nation in advancing LGBT equality through the passage of the most comprehensive civil rights laws of any state, when it comes to collecting the data necessary to address LGBT health and well-being disparities, California has fallen behind other states, including New York.
“It is time for California ‘to count’ the LGBT community as part of the provision of government and social services, as the state counts other demographic characteristics of importance,” Zbur said. “If we are not counted, we do not count.”
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Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.