Attorney General Bonta is committed to protecting the rights of all people. Recognizing that discrimination has no place in our society, Attorney General Bonta is fighting to protect transgender students and adults across the nation, and strictly enforcing California's law that prohibits state-funded travel to states that discriminate against LGBTQ communities.
AB 1887, codified in Government Code section 11139.8, prohibits California from using public resources to fund or sponsor travel to states which authorize discrimination, or repeal existing state or local protections against discrimination, based upon sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. This law also requires the Attorney General to develop, maintain, and post on the office’s Internet web site a current list of states that are subject to this travel restriction.
For more information, please visit Prohibition on State-Funded and State-Sponsored Travel to State with Discriminatory Laws (Assembly Bill No. 1887).
On June 21, 2017, the California Attorney General’s Office joined a multi-state amicus brief in support of transgender health care in an appeal to the Federal Circuit. At issue in the case is whether the Department of Veterans Affairs must undertake rulemaking to amend a regulation that explicitly excludes sex reassignment surgery from the medical benefits provided to veterans because the exclusion violates the Equal Protection Clause and/or is arbitrary and capricious. The VA provides the same surgeries to non-transgender veterans for the treatment of other conditions, and provides pre- and post-operative care to transgender veterans who undergo surgery elsewhere, with no explanation for these differences. California has been a leader in ensuring equal access to healthcare, and providing healthcare for transgender residents and was proud to join other states in protecting the healthcare rights of transgender individuals in this case.
On May 16, 2017 the California Attorney General’s Office joined a friend of the court brief in support of transgender students in an appeal in the Fourth Circuit. In G.G. v. Gloucester County School Board, a high school student known as G.G., sued the Gloucester County (Va.) School Board after it adopted a policy requiring students to use the restroom that corresponds with the gender assigned to the student at birth, rather than the gender with which the student identifies. G.G. was assigned as female at birth, but identifies as a male, and therefore wished to use the boys’ restroom. The brief highlights that public safety of students is paramount and will not suffer if transgender people are treated fairly. In fact, the school district’s speculation is contrary to the actual experience of States like California that have strong protections for transgender students, specifically with respect to the use of restrooms at schools.
Last year, the Obama Administration issued guidance that federal law protects the rights of transgender students to use school bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The Fourth Circuit relied on this guidance when it originally ruled in favor of G.G.’s case. The school board appealed the decision to the U.S. States Supreme Court. In February, while the case was pending appeal, the Trump Administration revoked President Obama’s guidance, prompting the U.S. Supreme Court to send the case back to the Fourth Circuit for further consideration.
On July 28, 2016, the California Attorney General’s Office joined friend-of-the-court briefs in two cases supporting transgender rights. The briefs challenge state laws denying transgender people access to single-sex bathrooms and similar facilities in schools and workplaces consistent with their gender identity. Specifically, California joined nine other states in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina in United States v. North Carolina and Carcano v. McCrory, supporting the United States and the private plaintiffs in these two related cases challenging North Carolina’s H.B. 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.” The Attorney General also joined 11 states in filing an amicus brief in State of Texas v. United States, in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, to support federal guidance that discrimination based on gender identity constitutes unlawful discrimination based on sex and that schools risk losing Title IX-linked funding unless they permit students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.
The two friend-of-the-court briefs assert that anti-discrimination laws, like those adopted in California protecting LGBTQ individuals, have enhanced public safety, not detracted from it. For example, California schools are required by state law to permit students to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity. Los Angeles Unified School District (USD), San Francisco USD, Sacramento City USD, and Riverside USD have had similar policies in place for many years to protect the rights of transgender students and none of these school districts have reported any incidents or problems with the policies.
The California Attorney General’s Office has been on the forefront of championing marriage equality and the fundamental civil rights of same-sex couples. As the Attorney General argued in a friend-of-the-court brief filed with the United States Supreme Court in the historic Hollingsworth v. Perry case, "To be clear, Proposition 8's sole purpose was to prevent same-sex couples from marrying. There is absolutely no legitimate or rational state interest in doing so. Proposition 8 is therefore unconstitutional." More information regarding the Attorney General’s engagement on marriage equality can be found at https://oag.ca.gov/news/press-releases/attorney-general-kamala-d-harris-celebrates-marriage-equality-asks-ninth-circuit.
The Office of the Attorney General has also participated in significant cases to combat discrimination based on sexual orientation by business establishments, including North Coast Women's Medical Group v. Superior Court (2008) 44 Cal 4th 1145. In that case, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a woman who was reportedly refused fertilization services by a medical practice because she was an unmarried lesbian. The medical practice asserted that its actions were protected by the constitutional right to free exercise of religion. The Attorney General's brief argued that a religious objection defense is unavailable in a state civil rights enforcement action under the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The California Supreme Court agreed, unanimously holding that physicians do not have a constitutional right to discriminate based on sexual orientation in violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act, even if the discrimination is based on their religious beliefs.
In 2004, the Office of the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the court brief in the California Supreme Court in support of a lesbian couple who were denied family membership benefits at a county club at which one of them was a member. The couple were registered domestic partners under California law. In this brief, the Attorney General argued that treating registered domestic partners differently from married couples in the provision of any accommodation, advantage, facility, privilege or service by a business establishment, without a legitimate business reason for such differentiation, is a violation of the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The brief further argued that there is no legitimate interest in refusing to offer membership benefits to registered domestic partners on the same basis as they are offered to married couples. The California Supreme Court agreed, holding that the Unruh Civil Rights Act prohibited the country club from discriminating between married couples and registered domestic partners in the provision of its services and benefits. The case is entitled, Koepke v. Bernardo Heights Country Club (2005) 36 Cal.4th 824.