SB 932 would require California to collect LGBTQ COVID-19 data

California Bill SB 932

A visitor at the 2017 Long Beach Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival shows their pride and California love. Photo: Long Beach Pride.

UPDATE: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 932. It will go into effect immediately.

California could be the first state in the union to require data collection that would show COVID-19’s health impacts on the LGBTQ community.

The federal government does not collect information on how COVID-19 has affected the LGBTQ community.

California does gather COVID-19 data related to race, ethnicity, age, gender and other demographic information. The City of Long Beach has refused to gather information related to COVID-19 and the LGBTQ community.

SB 932

SB 932, introduced today by Sen. Scott Wiener, would require California to collect data on the COVID-19 and the LGBTQ community related to infection, hospitalization, ICU, recovery, and mortality rates.

(Wiener penned an Op-Ed for Q Voice News this week advocating for such data collection. Wiener also sent a letter in early April to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to direct health departments to collect the data. )

“We know that COVID-19 is harming the LGBTQ community, but because no data is being collected, we’re hamstrung in making the case to devote attention and resources,” Wiener said in a statement.

“The history of the LGBTQ community is a history of fighting against invisibility. Without data, we quickly become an invisible community and risk being erased,” he said. “California must lead and collect this critical health data.”

Due to any privacy concerns, this data will be anonymized, and self-reporting of sexual orientation and gender identity will be optional, but encouraged.

Health disparities

COVID-19 impacts everyone, but some communities and groups are more vulnerable than others, and it’s critical to understand these discrepancies and provide support accordingly.

LGBTQ people are more likely to have cancer, HIV, and respiratory issues (due to higher tobacco and smoking rates).

The LGTBQ community, including LGBTQ youth, are also more likely to experience housing insecurity.

Government neglect

State and federal governments have a longstanding history of neglect for LGBTQ health.

For example, The Census – and many health forms – do not ask about sexual orientation and gender identity, which means that the LGTBQ community often suffers from a lack of resources and focus from public health infrastructure.

HIV-AIDS crisis

This neglect is most pointedly illustrated by the federal government ignoring the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s, an epidemic that killed thousands of members of the LGBTQ community. Pres. Ronald Reagan did not say the word “AIDS” until 1986, after thousands had already passed away from the disease.

Crucial to lead the way

Equality California is a sponsor of SB 932.

“This is not the first pandemic in which the federal government has ignored or erased the LGBTQ+ community, but we’re committed to making sure it’s the last,” Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California said in a statement.

“LGBTQ+ people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of disparities in health and well-being that we’ve faced for generations,” he said. “But as long as public health officials and government agencies aren’t collecting data to understand the size and scope of the impact, our community is at risk of being left out of relief efforts. It’s crucial that California meet this moment and lead the way.”

About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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